Monday, December 29, 2008

Béliveau taken to a hospital

Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau has been hospitalized after falling ill on Monday.

Habs vice-president of communications Donald Beauchamp said relatives had confirmed reports Béliveau has taken ill, but did not have details on the severity of the ailment.

According to reports, the former Canadiens captain felt ill while attending the funeral of father Paul Aquin.

Béliveau played 18 seasons for the Habs and won 10 Stanley Cups before retiring in 1971.

More details to come.

Source : Habs Inside Out

Around the Senators

Ottawa Senators' centre Cody Bass suffered a shoulder injury in a fight against Calgary's Eric Nystrom on Saturday. Bass will be out the rest of the Sens road trip and will be re-evaluated when the teams gets home New Year's Eve.

The Senators, who have lost their last twelve road games will face the Oilers tomorrow in Edmonton. Jesse Winchester, Filip Kuba and Anton Volchenkov all missed yesterday's 3-0 loss in Vancouver, a game during which they only managed 18 shots.

Now that the roster freeze is over, GM Bryan Murray will desperately try to make a move to improve his lifeless team before it's too late!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Matt Stajan out with eye injury

Matt Stajan spent Sunday in a hospital with an eye injury and he will be lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs for at least a week as the result of a rowdy soccer game.

Stajan, the Leafs’ No. 1 centre, was hit on the eye with a soccer ball before the Leafs’ practice on Saturday during a warmup exercise common to NHL teams. Players gather in a circle and try to keep the ball in the air as long as possible by kicking or heading it. If a player allows the ball to hit the floor he is out of the game and the game ends when no players are left.

"He's out for a while, at least a week," the coach said after the Leafs' game-day skate on Sunday in preparation for a game against the Washington Capitals.

Source: Globe and Mail


Hey guys,

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I was hit hard by the flu bug during the past few days preventing me to do anything! I'll be back tomorrow with a few articles.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Leafs Must Be Patient with Pogge

Justin Pogge debuted his NHL career with a .905 SV% and a 2.00 GAA.

Not too shabby.

Pogge displayed an active glove hand, quick lateral movement, solid positioning and decent rebound control. An aspect of his game I was specifically impressed with was his ability to make himself look big. Possessing a 6'3, 205 pound frame, Pogge's size is best utilized when screened or making the save through a crowd – an aspect Vesa Toskala was not blessed with.

The prospect of appointing Pogge as the starting goaltender is an enticing one. The Leafs are a rebuilding squad that have granted rookies a vast amount of roster spots. The timing seems perfect to insert Pogge to the lineup and have him debut his career as the Leafs' starting goaltender.

But hold on. Let's consider the consequence to this decision.

Toskala's value. If Toskala loses his job to a 22-year old, the Leafs can forget about bringing in a potential 1st round pick for the Finnish goaltender.

Considering the Leafs' situation between the pipes, there is no point in playing Pogge right now. If the Leafs wait until either the NHL Trade Deadline or the 09/10 regular season, Pogge will still be there, and just as ready.

Despite Toskala's struggles this season, he is still a coveted asset in this league. A goaltender of his stature is best suited on a Cup contending team. Not a rebuilding team.

With just under three months until the Trade Deadline, it would be in the Leafs' best interest to utilize that time by letting Toskala regain his form. In the event of Toskala's dominance being rekindled, the Leafs could not only attain a 1st round pick, but prospects as well. If he continues to struggle with consistency, his value will still be higher than awarding his job to a young goaltending prospect.

The Leafs must exercise a quality they have not been familiar with in the past few decades.


Can this Road Trip End Ottawa's Playoff Chances?

As they sit in the bottom of the NHL Northeast near Christmas time they go on an eight game road trip because the world juniors are in town. 6 of the 8 teams they play are in the playoffs as we speak. Ottawa needs to come out with at least 6 wins in this road trip to keep themselves in good position. They cannot come out of this below 500 in the eight games. They are eight points away from 8th spot. If they can win 6th they should be around 4 to 6 points away but if they go below 500 they can be around 12 points away if not more.

If this happens what can we expect from Ottawa? Will they try to get better and add a piece or two, namely a defenseman, possibly a goalie, or will they trade for prospects and draft picks. They would probably not go for draft picks or prospects because it will say they are rebuilding and most likely their GM Bryan Murray would be fired. See them if they lose most of the road trip's games, they might really look at trading Spezza.

NHL Northeast booms and busts

Just before the Christmas Holidays is now a good time to look at the early part of the season to identify the booms and busts for the NHL Northeast Division teams.

Boston Bruins:
Phil Kessel = 21 goals, 16 assists, 37 points, +15
Kessel has already matched his career-best 37 points and is on pace for 52 goals and 92 points.
He's thriving on a line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. Kessel is currently on a 18-game scoring streak.
David Krejci = 12 goals, 24 assists, 36 points, +18
Krejci has easily surpassed his career-best 27 points of last season. He's having great success with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. He currently has 27 points in the past 15 games.
Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez = They have combined for 24 wins in only 33 games. They also boast a great 2.12 GAA to go with a phenomenal .930 save percentage.

Marco Sturm = 7 goals, 6 assists, 13 points, +9
Granted, Sturm has missed most of the season due to a concussion and a knee injury, but the left-winger was supposed to be a critical element of the Bruins' offense after notching 56 points last season.

Buffalo Sabres:
Thomas Vanek = 24 goals, 6 assists, 30 points, -1
Vanek currently sits second in goals scored behind Jeff Carter. He's been a force the whole season for the Sabres.

Maxim Afinogenov = 1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points, -14
Afinogenov is having the worst season of his career. He definitely needs a change of scenery to regain his confidence, but who will take a chance on this underachiever?
Tim Connolly = 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points in only 6 games
The Band-Aid boy has never been able to stay healthy for extended periods of time in the past few years.
Connolly's career may come to an abrupt end as a result.

Montreal Canadiens:
Robert Lang = 11 goals, 14 assists, 25 points, +10
When GM Bob Gainey acquired Lang's services before the season, he was slotted as the Habs third-line centre. Now that Koivu is injured and Plekanec is slumping, the Canadiens need Lang's offensive skills and leadership to keep winning.
Josh Gorges = 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, +14
Gorges has been the Habs' most steady d-man this season, especially during Komisarek's absence. Not known for his offensive abilities, Gorges has been very reliable this season, while seeing an increase of ice time over last season.

Tomas Plekanec
= 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points
Coming out of a very good season, Plekanec was slated to be the Canadiens first-line centre. Instead, Plekanec is having problems finding the scoresheet, having only two goals and one assist in the last 21 games.
Chris Higgins = 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points
After missing the first few games with a lower body injury, Higgins had problems finding his groove and his scoring touch. Save for his hat-trick against Ottawa, Higgins has not met expectations after notching 52 points last season. He is currently sidelined four to six weeks with a separate shoulder.

Ottawa Senators:
Alex Auld = He has 9 wins and 8 losses, but his posting an excellent 2.34 GAA and a good .915 save percentage. Without Auld's resurgence, the Senators would be dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Mike Fisher = 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, -6
After three consecutive 20-goal seasons, the fans were expecting big things from Fisher. Instead, he has had problems finding the back of the net and provide much-needed secondary scoring for Ottawa.
Antoine Vermette = 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, -10
After improving his point totals in each of his four NHL-seasons, Vermette was due for a breakout season. Instead, Vermette only has one goal and one assist in the last 20 games.

Toronto Maple Leafs:
Matt Stajan = 9 goals, 20 assists, 29 points, -4
After being a healthy scratch earlier this season, Stajan has exploded offensively with linemates Nik Antropov and Alex Ponikarovksy who have a good season too so far.
Mihail Grabovksi = 11 goals, 9 assists, 20 points, -2
The rookie centre is having a great season with wingers Niklas Hagman and Nikolai Kulemin on the Leafs' second line. He's the Leafs centre of the future.

Lee Stempniak
= 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points with the Maple Leafs
Acquired in trade for Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen, Stempniak was supposed to provide plenty of offense to the Leafs after notching 13 points in 14 games with the Blues. Instead, Stempniak has yet to click with any other Leafs player.
Vesa Toskala and Curtis Joseph = They have combined for 13 wins in 32 games. They also boast a ludicrous 3.28 GAA to go with a shameful .880 save percentage. Joseph is clearly over-the-hill while Toskala is battling a groin injury. It's clearly time for hyped-prospect Justin Pogge to shine in Leafland.


Granted, it was only the Atlanta Thrashers but Justin Pogge looked very solid in his official NHL debut last night making 19 saves on 21 shots. I am a big supporter of teams leaving strong prospects in the minors to continue growing and to play a regular schedule while they are being groomed for the NHL but I think this season would have been a great opportunity for the Leafs to get Pogge some NHL Experience.

With the Leafs in rebuilding mode, and Vesa Toskala going to get a fairly significant number of games off, Pogge could have gained a significant number of minutes and pressure free NHL experience as expectations for the Leafs are considerably lower than in recent years. For whatever reason, Cliff Fletcher and the Maple Leafs brass decided it would be a better move to bring in an ageing Curtis Joseph. Nostalgia purposes aside I really don’t see much of an advantage in bringing Joseph in. His numbers have not been good this season, nor have they been for some time, and I think it’s just delaying the development of Pogge.

Granted, it is a balancing act when it comes to grooming young goaltenders in the NHL but you really can’t have a much more conducive situation for goaltending development than the situation the Leafs are in this season. If Pogge were to have been playing and had a few bad games in a row it would be no big loss. Expectations for wins this season are low and the bad games would be chalked up to growing pains. If the Leafs plan on bring Pogge up in the next couple of years to backup Toskala and he plays poorly his stock in the NHL will drop from a budding prospect to a goalie that just can’t make the jump from the AHL to the NHL.

Last night Pogge showed that he has what it takes to play in this league and should be given the opportunity. As much as I like Toskala Pogge very well could be the future of the Leafs. Along with some of the other young players currently on the roster Pogge could help make up the essential core of this team for years to come and in my opinion the sooner they get the ball rolling on this NHL process the better.
While Joseph continues to falter give more minutes to Pogge, it’s that simple.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Guillaume Latendresse out of Guy Carbonneau's Dog House

After Guillaume Latendresse was a healthy scratch for a few games in a row in early December, some Canadiens fans wondered if #84 still had a bright future in Montreal.

The pleasant forward, usually smiling, had a hard time understanding what was happening to him and what Carbonneau essentially wanted from him.

“I don't really know what he wants more from me, declared Tenderness. I did not understand completely our conversations, they did not answer my questions about the reasons of my benching.“

“Maybe he expects me to do more offensively. I have to keep trying making plays event if I lost most of my confidence.“

Latendresse was asked to shoot from the slot. To play physically and use his big frame. To protect the puck in the corners. To be good defensively, with and without the puck.

Maybe Latendresse lost his true nature along the way? Maybe Carbo and Tender don't go along too well?

After scoring 16 goals in each of his first two seasons with the Canadiens, Latendresse was off the a good start this season, playing with Alex Tanguay and Saku Koivu, notching six points in his first five games. However, when Chris Higgins came back from his groin injury, he took Latendresse's spot immediately. As a result, the 21 year-old forward was downgraded to the 3rd and 4th lines, he also did not see much power play action; thereby, reducing his offensive production.

“I don't want to make noise, Latendresse stressed. I need to keep my rage inside when I show up at the rink. If I want to be in a bad mood at home, it's my business.“

Carbo recognized that he wished to spark his young forward and get the best out of him when he would be reinserted in the lineup.

After Steve Begin and Maxim Lapierre were healthy scratched earlier this season, they raised they game significantly in the past few games. Carbonneau was simply trying to do the same with youngsters like Sergei Kostitsyn and Guillaume.

When Christopher Higgins went down with an long term injury on December 9, 2008 against the Flames, Latendresse knew he would have the chance to re-enter the Habs' line-up.

In the last six games, he has two goals and one assist, while seeing his ice-time increase. In the past two games, Guillaume has played on average 16:00 minutes on a line with grinders Tom Kostopoulos and Maxim Lapierre, which has been by far the Canadiens' best line this weekend. That, combined with an increase in his power play time, has helped Latendresse get plenty of scoring chances. Tender is finally driving the net and finishing his bodychecks; just what Carbonneau wants from him...

Patrice Bergeron out indefinitely with concussion

Patrice Bergeron will likely miss an extended period of time after suffering a concussion during Saturday's game against Carolina. Bergeron was smacked on the head by Dennis Seidenberg's shoulder, when Bergeron tried to hit him in the meutral zone.

Bergeron was released from hospital on Sunday. His family has arrived in Boston to spend time with him over the next few days. Bergeron will be placed on the injured list anf fortunately, this concussion is less severe than last year's concussion when Randy Jones hit him from behind.

Other notes: The Bruins have added Aaron Ward (ankle) and Petteri Nokelainen (upper body) to injured reserve, giving the club 21 players on the active roster. Ward and Nokelainen are on standard IR, while Marco Sturm (knee) and Andrew Ference (leg) are on long-term IR. Marco Sturm's recent knee injury will keep him out of action for at least four weeks.

With Ward and Nokelainen hitting IR, the Bruins could call up reinforcements for Tuesday's game against New Jersey. Johnny Boychuk and Martins Karsums are candidates for recall.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pogge's Time to Shine

It appears Vesa Toskala has been complaining of a sore groin for some time, and during the Leafs' 7-3 win over the Pens last night, the soreness had reached a limit. TSN is reporting that Toskala will be out of the lineup when the Leafs face the Thrashers on Monday.

For goaltending prospect Justin Pogge, this is the best news of the season (but he won't tell you that).

Toskala's performances have been better of late. He's been slowly regaining form, but hasn't yet found the game that made him critically acclaimed in Toronto last season. Perhaps this groin injury had a part to play, especially considering the style of the Finnish goaltender, which revolves heavily around agility, speed and acrobatics.

In any case, this could be a win-win for the Leafs. If the injury really was holding Toskala back, then some time to rehabilitate could mean the emergence of the goaltender we all knew and praised last season.

More importantly, Pogge can finally play in his 1st career NHL game. And at 22, it's about time.

If Pogge can prove to Brian Burke that he belongs in a Maple Leafs jersey, the chances of him playing for the 2009-10 Leafs squad will be elevated. Not only that, but he can potentially stand as the Leafs' starting goaltender next season.

It's a feasible scenario considering the success he generated in his junior career. I won't go on driveling about it, just take a look:

* 2006 - World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal
* 2006 - World Junior Hockey Championship Team Canada MVP
* 2006 - Four Broncos Memorial Trophy - Player of the Year in the WHL
* 2006 - Del Wilson Trophy - Top goaltender in the WHL
* 2006 - CHL Goaltender of the Year

In the AHL, however, Pogge hasn't matched that kind of success. In 89 career games, he's accumulated a 45-34 record, a 2.70 GAA, a .901 SV% and 7 SO. Not bad, but nowhere near good enough to rank his as a top goaltending prospect.

In his defense, it could be argued that poor management has held him back. Considering this is Pogge's first season in the AHL as a starting goaltender, I would say it's a likely scenario. Look no further than last year's playoffs, when head coach Greg Gilbert opted to use journeyman Scott Clemmenson as the starting goaltender over Justin Pogge, who recorded better stats than his 30-year old AHL teammate.

And now, the Marlies are in the midst of a terrible season, struggling in all facets of the game. No offense to the Marlies management, but Pogge's departure, even temporarily, will help develop his game.

Which brings me to my point. If Pogge does play well enough to earn him a roster spot, don't expect it to come until next season. The Leafs are essentially handcuffed with Joseph, and don't expect them to send him to the pressbox. Joseph has earned his respect, and the Leafs will not embarrass the 40-year old by benching him.

Pogge will have to showcase his talent, and bide his time until next season. If he does make a strong case to become starting goaltender for the Leafs, expect Burke to trade Toskala in the off-season or at the NHL Trade Deadline (which would mean Pogge finishing the season).

Prediction: Pogge plays solid between the pipes and is appointed starting goaltender by the end of next year's training camp.

Kovy being Kovy

MONTREAL – Anyone ready to write off Alex Kovalev’s season based on his un-Kovy-like start might want to ask Ryan Miller and the Sabres about that.

With expectations through the roof for Kovalev following his brilliant 84-point campaign of a year ago, there was no shortage of sprained ankles from everyone jumping off AK-27’s bandwagon. After scoring the overtime winner to down the Sabres, Kovalev appears to be heating up with 10 points in his last 10 games.

“I’m more confident shooting the puck right now. I’ve been working hard in practice at hitting the right spots and I’ve also been watching my own DVD,” said Kovalev with a smile, about his wildly popular instructional video launched last season.

Whatever the ultra-skilled winger is doing these days, it’s working. Despite his sluggish start to the campaign, Kovalev is nevertheless co-leading the Habs with 26 points along with Andrei Markov.

“I’ve been saying all along that it was going to happen and the puck would start to go in. I knew we just had to keep pushing and working hard,” said Kovalev. “I think what we’re all doing a much better job of right now is getting the puck on net and jumping on the rebounds. We’ve been talking about the fact that our goals won’t all be pretty.”

While Kovalev does have a point, his goals still fall into the highlight reel category more often than not. His OT winner was no different as his seeing-eye wrist shot somehow found a small hole past Miller.

“Since the season started, Kovy has been the one with the most scoring chances on team and he was the one creating the most chances for his teammates. The problem was his shots kept hitting the post or going off a leg,” explained head coach Guy Carbonneau. “We all had the feeling that once he scored one, he would relax and get rolling and that’s what he’s doing right now.”

Called for a pair of phantom penalties, including the one that gave the Sabres a 3-2 lead with under five minutes to go in regulation, Kovalev had time to plot his revenge.

“Those were a couple of frustrating penalties and you could tell he felt bad about them, but he kept working hard,” said Carbonneau. “He showed his teammates he was there for them and that he wanted to win this game for them tonight.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sabrec recall top prospect Butler from the AHL

The Buffalo Sabres have recalled defenseman Chris Butler from the AHL. The 22 year-old will make his NHL debut tonight against the Kings.

Forward Matt Ellis has also been recalled to replace centre Paul Gaustad who is sidelined after receiving a puck in the face Monday at practise.

Senators shake lines up

Craig Hartsburg has decided to split the PIZZA line for tonight's matchup with the Devils.

Expected lines:



Spezza with Ruutu and Neil??

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Komisarek back in the lineup tonight

Canadiens d-man Mike Komisarek will be back into the lineup tonight against the Flyers. He will play with Andrei Markov.

Ryan O'Byrne will be a healthy scratch and Ben Maxwell was reassigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs to make room for Big George Laraque who will also be back. He will play with Steve Begin and Sergei Kostitsyn.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

David Krejci's unexpected rise to stardom

The Bruins' first pick in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (63rd overall), David Krecji, 22, has climbed fast on the Bruins depth chart.

Currently the Bruins' third centre behind point-producer Marc Savard and proven youngster Patrice Bergeron, Krejci is quickly making his mark in the NHL. His new line-mates Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder have perfectly clicked together. Through 30 games this season with the Bruins, Krejci has eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points, currently on pace for 79 points. He also ranks 10th in the league with a +15 plus/minus differential.

The Sternberk, Czech Republic native, has already surpassed last year's career-best, 27 points in 56 games, thanks to his plethora of skills. Krejci's strongest assets are his soft hands and smooth puck-handling abilities. He is good on face-offs and possesses good defensive instincts for a second-year player. Krejci also has a highly accurate wrist shot, and he can make smart, crisp passes to him teammates. He isn't afraid of playing in heavy traffic and drive the net.

After playing two years in the QMJHL with Gatineau where he recorded 144 points in only 117 games, he smoothly made the transition to the AHL with the Providence Bruins where he notched 74 points in 69 games in 2006-2007. Krejci adjusted very well everywhere he played, and there is no reason he can't continue with the Bruins this season...

Expect big things from Krejci in the next few years, as Bruins's coach Claude Julien is not afraid to use him in every situation. Krejci is currently on fire, having notched five goals and fifteen assists for 20 points in the past twelve games!

Will Jeremy Williams finally stick with the Leafs?

Williams, who scored in each of his first three NHL games, over three NHL seasons, has never been able to stick with the Maple Leafs, until now...

Drafted 220th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Maple Leafs, Williams, 24, has yet to play a full NHL season in Toronto. Over four seasons, he has only played 23 games, notching seven goals and one assist after yesterday's 3-2 OT win against the Devils. This year, Williams has three goals and one assist in only three games (he's already +4), after the Leafs recalled him on December 8th when Niklas Hagman went down with concussion-like symptoms.

Known for his offensive abilities, Williams is a great playmaker who has a knack for putting pucks in the net.
Williams has also really improved his acceleration and top-end speed in recent years, which has helped him even more offensively. He also seems stronger on his skates this season, especially with the puck.

The Regina native has seen about 15 minutes of ice-time per game this season, an increase over his previous call-ups, which is a good indication that he will likely stick for the whole 2008-2009 season, especially when newly-appointed Leafs' GM Brian Burke starts getting rid of some veterans with hefty contracts (Kaberle, Kubina, Blake for instance).

It's a make or break season for Williams, who at 24, might not figure in the Leafs' plan anymore if he can't step up and produce consistently in the NHL.

Nathan Gerbe out 10-14 days

Nathan Gerbe, the Buffalo Sabres' rookie left winger, suffered a setback from getting checked Saturday and could miss up to seven games.

"He's got an upper-body injury and he's going to miss somewhere from 10 days to two weeks, stemming from the hit the other night," coach Lindy Ruff said today after Gerbe skipped the Sabres' workout. "He was examined again this morning before practice, and we're just a little concerned with how he reacted after yesterday's skate. The doctors found something and decided to keep him out."

Source: Buffalo News.

Time to part ways with Hartsburg

When Bryan Murray hired Craig Hartsburg this summer as the Senators' new head coach, he was pretty confident Hartsburg would turn the Senators around after a horrendous finish last season.

29 games into the 2008-09 season, the Senators are sitting at the bottom on the Eastern Conference, only five points in front of bottom-dweller Tampa Bay Lightning after losing 4-1 to the 13th place Atlanta Thrashers on home ice.

GM Bryan Murray signed Hartsburg to a three-year contract last June to replace John Paddock who had been fired in February. After a torrid start under Paddock, the Senators stumbled, leading to his firing at the end of February. Murray, who is not known as being a patient general manager, finished the season behind the bench.

This season, the Senators have had troubles scoring goals, averaging only 2.3 goals/game after finishing 2nd overall offensively last season. Secondary scoring has been a problem all season, as Mike Fisher (3 g, 6 a, 9 points), Antoine Vermette (2 g, 3 a, 5 points) and Nick Foligno (4 g, 4 a, 8 points) haven't been able to get going as they are in a season-long slump. The top pairing of Anton Volchenkov (-10) and Chris Phillips (-12) have been the Sens worst defensive pairing this season despite being a defensive force during the past few years.

Bryan Murray, because of the salary cap, hasn't been able to add a puck-moving defenseman nor a veteran forward to help boost his anemic offense.

And since Bryan Murray will not fire himself because of his inability to make a trade, Craig Hartsburg is the likely scapegoat if the players don't turn things around. They don't seem enticed to play for Hartsburg as their past showings have been dreadful being 1-3-1 in their last five games during which they only managed seven goals while allowing 15 goals.

The recent call-ups of Brian Lee and Ilya Zubov haven't done anything to save this sinking ship.
The Pizza line is not producing anymore. Heatley is pointless in his last four games (-4), Spezza is also pointless in his last four games (-3), while captain Alfredsson only has one goal, an empty netter, during that span.

The Senators still have three games to play before the Christmas hiatus, visiting the Devils and the Flyers, two hot teams, and receiving the Stars, a team on the rise lately.

Should his team cannot manage to earn four points out of six, look for Bryan Murray to pull the trigger and let Craig Hartsburg go after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Welcome Back, Toskala + The Future of Justin Pogge

Vesa Toskala has reclaimed his role as the Leafs' top player.

Similar to last season, Toskala got off to a slow start, struggling to provide his team with solid goaltending. Looking at how the defense has performed this season, consistent goaltending is a necessity.

But have no fear, Toskala is here... finally.

The re-emergence of the Finnish goaltender is not only good news for his teammates, but to Brian Burke and the expanding brass of ''Tank Nation''.

While the goaltending of Toskala will ensure more W's, it will also raise his value. After all, the NHL Trade Deadline is on the horizon, and even without Mats Sundin it's going to be an interesting time for the Buds. Will Burke opt to trade long-time Maple Leaf Tomas Kaberle? How about defenseman Pavel Kubina? Is Nikolai Antropov's time as a Leaf coming to an end? But, pertaining to the context of the blog, the real question is whether or not Toskala will be serving as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs come March 4th.

If Toskala is traded, it would be unwise of the Leafs to appoint Curtis Joseph as the starting goaltender. A much more viable option would be to call-up goaltending prospect Justin Pogge.

While many have argued that such a move could rattle the confidence of the 22-year old, playing for the Leafs for a couple months would be beneficial to his development in contrast to serving on the Toronto Marlies, who are currently ranked 11th place in the AHL's Western Conference.

Playing for the Marlies will progress his development no further. The time is now (well, March 4th) for the Leafs to deploy another one of their top prospects to the big league.

Unlike previous seasons, the Leafs are now in the midst of rebuilding. Inserting Pogge in the later stages of the rebuilding phase seems counter-productive to their future. At the very least, he must be a member of the team by next season. If not, his confidence could be affected, and as proven by Toskala earlier this year, confidence is a crucial aspect between the pipes.

This all hinges on the play of Toskala, however, so I speak for all of Leaf Nation (and Tank Nation) when I say:

Keep it up, Vesa!

Yannick Weber: A Diamond In The Rough Or a One-Dimensional Player?

A pleasant surprise during the recent Montreal Canadiens' training camp, Weber, 20, was quite disappointed when he learned that he had not made the team. After a fairly rough start in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs (two points in the first eight games), the Zurich, Switzerland, native, has slowly turned things around. He now has five goals and seven assists in 25 games with the Bulldogs.

Primarily known for his ability to quarterback the power play, Weber's strengths are his booming slap shot from the blue line, his sound transition game and his great one-ice vision. However, the 5'10'', 195 lbs, blue-liner lacks a physical edge and is prone to turnovers as he likes to carry the puck through the neutral zone.

A third-round pick of the Canadiens in the 2004 NHL entry draft, Weber, a right-handed shooter, was told in training camp that he needed to hone his defensive skills and improve his zone coverage before permanently graduating with the Habs. When Don Lever, the Bulldogs' head coach, believes Weber has matured enough defensively, he might recommend him to Bob Gainey when the Canadiens need help on defense. Lever is slowly giving him more ice-time and easing him up on the power play. Weber is currently manning the second PP unit.

Should Ryan O'Byrne continue to experience problems defensively and play as inconsistently as he has been recently, the Canadiens will be enticed to recall Weber to see what he can do with the pros. Moreover, Weber's presence could not hurt their dreadful power play which is currently ranked 29th in the NHL.

I would not be surprised if he gets a phone call from Gainey during the Christmas Holidays...

Habs need to find a power play specialist, and soon!

I guess a lot of fans in Montreal now miss Mark Streit after his departure via free agency to Long Island.

Montreal had last year’s number one power play in the NHL, but they are now sitting 29th with a poor 12.9% success rate, while the Islanders power play has improved steadily from 29th to 17th overall at a 18.0% rate. Streit has 21 points, 15 on the power play, in 30 games (he would be the Habs' fourth scorer).

Many thought Streit would struggle as a full-time defenseman, but he’s minus-8 on a very ordinary Islanders team that is sitting last in the Eastern Conference. Streit has logged the thirteenth most ice time in the NHL with an average of 25:07 each game, including around six minutes on the power play.

Meanwhile, Ryan O'Byrne and Patrice Brisebois, who usually play with Roman Hamrlik, Streit's former partner on defense, have a combined three goals and five assists in 46 games this season... Mathieu Dandenault also played with Hammer before being injured with a broken arm. Dandy, while playing well defensively, only had two assists in twenty games prior to the injury.

Streit was the shooter on a very effective 1st unit last season along with Markov, Kovalev, Plekanec and A. Kostitsyn. This season, newly-acquired Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang have also manned the point with Andrei Markov.

The latter was asked to shoot the puck at the net without great success, Markov being more of a passer than a shooter, as shown by his five goals and 19 assists in 29 games this season. As a result, the Habs have became very predictable on the power play, and the defensive team is putting much more pressure on Koivu (one goal on the PP) and Kovalev (also one goal on the PP). The team leader is Alex Tanguay with only four PP goals and he has not scored on the PP since November 7th.

The league leader is Selanne with thirteen power play goals.

Guy Carbonneau has yet to adjust his strategy and the problem is more and more obvious recently as the Canadiens have lost three of their last four games, scoring only one goal in each of these losses.

Will Carbonneau change his strategy or will Bob Gainey pull the trigger before the Holiday trade freeze and acquire a power play specialist with a hard shot (Philippe Boucher was available a month ago)? He even put Begin, Lapierre and Kostopoulos out there during the last game against the Capitals to send a message to his star players. Now with the injury to Koivu, the coach will have to find a new combination in order to spark this slumping power play unit...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rivet sidelined at least two weeks

From the Buffalo News:

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Craig Rivet revealed today that he's dealing with an injured shoulder and the team's captain is going to be out least two weeks while he tries to rehab the shoulder.

Rivet was originally injured Nov. 29 in Montreal and sat out the next two games. He returned to play in the next three games but said he tweaked the injury in each one. Rivet sat out Friday's loss to Toronto in HSBC Arena and Saturday's win at New Jersey.

Coach Lindy Ruff said Rivet would be sideline for "two-week blocks."

Phil Kessel named 1st star of the week

Kessel tallied eight points (three goals, five assists) and extended his point streak to 15 games as the Bruins went 3-1-0, improving their Eastern Conference-leading record to 21-5-4. Kessel recorded one goal and one assist in a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay Dec. 8, notched an assist in a 3-1 loss at Washington Dec. 10, tallied a goal and two assists in a 7-3 win at Atlanta Dec. 12 and closed the week with a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win over the Thrashers Dec. 13. Kessel's point streak is a career high, the longest in the NHL this season and longest by a Bruins player since Adam Oates recorded points in 20 consecutive games from Jan. 7 to Feb. 20, 1997. The 21-year-old Madison, Wisconsin native is second in Bruins scoring with 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 30 games, ranks third in the NHL in goals and already has matched his career high of 19 goals set last season.

Sean Leahy at Puck Daddy wrote a great article on Kessel who was just named the NHL's "first star" of last week. Click here for the full article.

Canada's WJC 2009 Team

Thanks to Dan Tolenksy on Hockeybuzz here are the players for Team Canada for the World Juniours

Northeast division prospects:

Tyler Myers 6'7" 213 Calgary, AB Kelowna (WHL)
Tyler Ennis 5'8" 165 Edmonton, AB Med. Hat (WHL)

PK Subban 5'11" 206 Toronto, ON Belleville (OHL)

Chris DiDomenico 5'11" 170 Woodbridge, ON S.J. (QMJHL)

Is the Price really right?

Coming out a phenomenal 2006-2007 hockey season, during which the Anahim Lake, B.C., native won the gold at the IIHF World Junior (U20) Ice Hockey Championship in Sweden (he was named the Tournament MVP) and the Calder Cup with the Hamilton Bulldogs (he was named playoffs MVP), expectations were very high at the beginning of last season in Montreal.

The 6-3, 212 lbs, butterfly goaltender made the team out of training camp. He shared duties with French goaltender Cristobal Huet for the first few months, before being sent down to the AHL in January 2008 to regain his form after a lackluster start. After a one-month stint with the Bulldogs, the Canadiens called him up and gave him plenty of action before trading Huet to the Capitals at the trade deadline. Price responded very well, leading the Canadiens to a strong finish atop the Eastern Conference. Price finished the 2007-2008 season with a 24-12-3 record, a 2.56 GAA and a sparkling .920 save percentage.

The red-hot Canadiens were to face the 8th seed Boston Bruins which they beat 8 times out of 8 during the regular season. After taking a comfortable 3-1 series lead, during which Price allowed only 5 goals, things changed drastically. The Bruins were able to tie the series 3-3 before seeing the Habs blank them in a decisive 7th game 5-0.

Price showed signs of tiredness and inconsistency throughout the whole series. He now had to face a surprising physical Flyers team that had just eliminated the red-hot Washington Capitals in a long 7-game series.

Price would have to be very sharp to help the Canadiens prevail and reach the Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That would not happen. Price was shaky in each of the Canadiens loss, surrendering at least one soft goal each game, leading to a short 5-game series during which the Habs were out-muscled, outworked and outwitted. The Price was not so right after all, as Carey finished the playoffs with a5-6 record, 2.78 GAA and a very ordinary .901 save percentage.

Now tagged as the Canadiens no 1 goalie of the future, Price had the whole summer to get some rest and get his mental focus back. He even managed to lose the 28 lbs that he had gained during the 2007-2008 season. Lighter, sharper and faster, Price is off to a strong start this season with the Canadiens. After 20 games, he has a 12-4-4, a 2.37 GAA and a great .920 save percentage. He has kept the Canadiens in most of the games with key saves while being more consistent.

Currently day-to-day with a bad cold and a lower body injury, Price will have some time to rest until Christmas. This forced hiatus will keep him fresh through the end of the season and the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Price's inactivity will allow backup Jaroslav Halak to see more action. Seldom used during the first two months, Halak has now started three consecutive games in Price's absence. The 23-year-old Czech goaltender is boasting a 3-4-1 record, to go with a 2.37 GAA and a solid .918 save percentage. The Canadiens' lack of offensive support to Halak has led to a few 2-1 losses. In Halak's nine starts, he has only allowed more than three goals once...

When Price returns, Halak will likely want to see plenty of action as well and battle for the Habs' no 1 goalie spot. However, since Price is the Canadiens' goaltender of the future, Halak's chances of being a true no 1 is more likely with another team. Don't be surprised if Gainey trades Halak at the trade deadline to get a top-6 forward or a steady veteran defenseman to help his team contend for the Stanley Cup for the Habs Centennial. My bet is that the Price will be right at the end of the season.

Big Division Victory for the Leafs

Friday night's game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres didn't play out how I'd imagined it to. This low scoring affair featured only three combined goals, each scored by players with a combined 8 goals in 50 games this season. Toni Lydman, Jeremy Williams and Ian White scored for each of their respective teams on Friday.

I'm not sure if I believe the game was as low scoring as it was because of the great goaltending, although both Ryan Miller and Vesa Toskala played well, or if it was the ineptitude of the forwards. Drew Stafford’s shocking missed opportunity, he had a wide opened net and somehow managed to miss the net completely, was the one blunder that stood out the most for me. Maxim Afinogonov's lack of finish, which he has exhibited almost all season (with the exception of the lone goal he has scored), made another appearance when Toskala made a pad save on an opportunity that should have resulted in a goal nine times out of ten.

Buffalo's lack of finish shouldn't imply that the Leafs gave up opportunity after opportunity because they didn't. They Leafs played a decent game, scored when they had to and Toskala made the saves he needed to for the Leafs to beat their division foes, the Sabres.

What may have been the most impressive part of the Leafs game was their ability to keep the high scoring Thomas Vanek off the score sheet. Vanek currently leads the league with 24 goals on the season.

With a game with little to report on and the Leafs being off until Tuesday night we'll leave it at that for this time around. The Leafs host the New Jersey Devils, who had been on a hot streak until their recent loss (Saturday to the same Buffalo Sabres), at the Air Canada Centre. This should be another interesting match-up.

If you're interested, visit my other blog (Red Wings Blog) at

Tale of Two Sophomore D

I am talking about two young sophmore defensemen in different teams in the northeast which have to played as well as they did in their rookie year. These Defenseman come from two Canadian teams. One was sent down and the other is still up with his team. Well the two players I am talking about are O'byrne and Stralman. Both defenseman had great rookie years, one as a offensive defenseman (Stralman) who showed his talents in May not in the playoffs but at the World Championships. O'Byrne defenseman looked like the next Komisarek, a physical presence who just needs to teaching from Hamrlik how to be a D-man in the league. Both of them have not looked up to par in there sophmore year which plagued many NHL players. Toronto decided to send Stralman down for maybe some conditioning or for awhile not sure yet and they decided to keep up a rookie in his place in Sifers who had two good games.

Here is last year stats of Stralman last year and his projected of this year if he stayed up

07-08: 50GP 3G 6A 9Pts -10 18PIM 40Shots

08-09: 21GP 1G 6A 7Pts +1 6PIM 1GWG 29 Shots

pace 08-09: 74GP 3G 21A 24Pts +3 21 PIMS 3GWG 102shots

On paper he looks like is playing better than he did last year. He been playing poorly as of late and now with the returns of Van Ryn and soon Frogren Toronto has too many D-men especially with how Sifers is playing. Some time in the "A" for Stralman can be good for him. Toronto is disappointing with his Powerplay playing being that he showed his potential during the World Championship and so far he has no Powerplay goals to his name. has these has his assets, flaws and potential

ASSETS: Has plenty of puck poise and on-ice maturity. Owns a projectable frame and offensive upside. Is good on the power play point due to a hard shot.

FLAWS: Needs to add more bulk in order to better defend against big forwards in North America. Must adjust quickly to the faster pace of the NHL, and avoid big hits.

CAREER POTENTIAL: Top four defenseman

I think the main reason why he was sent down was because he was not showing the puck poise and on-ice maturity in which he showed last year, he sometimes made some bad plays in his own zone. He will be back sometime this year and hopefully can play better and get some goals on the PP.

While the other defenseman O'Byrne has been for sure looking not as good as he did last year. He is a defensive D-man and you for sure notice him on the ice which is not good news. He been letting too many players to blow right by him. He would just need to get back to playing simple hockey and the basics. Last year he was +7 with 1G and 6A while this year he is already -5 and a projected -18.

From his assets. flaws and career potential

ASSETS: Has the size and physical toughness teams lust after at the NHL level. Is the consummate team player and a sound stay-at-home presence.
FLAWS: Is extremely limited in the offensive zone and will never be confused with a power play quarterback. Has to improve his mobility and coordination.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Top six defenseman.

He for sure does not have stay-at-home presence which has been most of the time lacking and he needs to get back. He for sure does need to improve his mobility and coordination! I think he should be sent down to the "A" and they should bring up Yannick Weber and try him on the powerplay.

Around the Bruins

Bruins injuries:

Left winger Marco Sturm (concussion, neck injury) practiced yesterday and hopes to play against the Maple Leafs on Thursday.

Defenseman Aaron Ward (ankle) remains day-to-day after reaggravating his injury on Friday night. Forward Petteri Nokelainen (upper body) could be out for more than a week. He also left Friday night's game with the injury.

Cody Bass sent back to the AHL

From Sun Media:

The Ottawa Senators announced today that they have returned centre Cody Bass to Binghamton.

Bass, 21, who was first called up on Nov. 19 and then on Dec. 1, had a total of nine games and 10 penalty minutes with the Sens. He did not play Saturday, when the Sens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0.

In 17 games with the Binghamton Sens, Bass has one goal, one assist and 39 penalty minutes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Leafs send Stralman down, keep Sifers up

Brian Burke, president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced Sunday afternoon that defenceman Anton Stralman has been assigned to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
Stralman is expected to be in the lineup when the Marlies host the Hamilton Bulldogs today at 4 p.m. at Ricoh Coliseum.
Playing in his second professional season in the Toronto organization, Stralman has played in 21 games for the Maple Leafs and recorded one goal and six assists to go along with six minutes in penalties. He posted a plus 1 rating and he was averaging 15:51 of ice time. His lone goal of the season was the game-winning marker as the Leafs defeated Boston 4-2 on the road on October 23rd.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Around the Senators

Anton Volchenkov will not play against Tampa Bay tonight. The defenceman was injured when blocking a shot in last night's loss to the Capitals, taking the puck in the abdomen.

The club has called up forward Ilya Zubov and defenceman Brian Lee for tonight's contest against the Lighting. This is Lee's second recall in less than a month, recording two assists and two penalty minutes in those games. Zubov, also in his second recall in a month, did not record any points in his four games with Ottawa.

Martin Gerber will get the start in goal for tonight's game.

Source: TSN

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chris Higgins to miss 4-6 weeks with shoulder injury

The Montreal Canadiens announced today that forward Christopher Higgins will be sidelined four to six weeks as a result of a shoulder injury sustained on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames.
In 21 games, Higgins has five goals and four assists.

Meanwhile, Carey Price is day-to-day with the flu. As a precautionary measure, GM Bob Gainey recalled Marc Denis from Hamilton. Expect Jaroslav Halak to get the nod in goal against the Capitals.

Expected lines Leafs vs Sabres tonight!

Nathan Gerbe - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Maxim Afinogenov - Adam Mair - Ales Kotalik
Daniel Paille - Paul Gaustad - Clarke MacArthur

Jaroslav Spacek - Andrej Sekera
Tony Lydman - Craig Rivet
Henrik Tallinder - Teppo Numminen

Starting goalie:
Ryan Miller

Injured players: Tim Connolly, Patrick Kaleta
Healthy scratches: Andrew Peters, Nathan Paetsch

Maple Leafs
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Matt Stajan - Nik Antropov
Lee Stempniak - Mikhail Grabovski - Nik Kulemin
Jeremy Williams - Dominic Moore - Jason Blake
Ryan Hollweg - John Mitchell - Ian White

Jeff Finger - Pavel Kubina
Tomas Kaberle - Mike Van Ryn
Anton Stralman - Jaime Sifers

Starting goalie:
Vesa Toskala

Injured players: Jonas Frogren, Jamal Mayers, Luke Shenn
Healthy scratch: Andre Deveaux

Mike Van Ryn is cleared to play and will be back in the line-up after missing one month of action

Top 50 rookies

Scott Cullen at looks at the top 50 rookies of the 2008-2009 season.

5. Blake Wheeler, RW, Boston
7. Mikhail Grabovski, C, Toronto
8. Matt Hunwick, D, Boston
15. Nikolai Kulemin, RW, Toronto
22. Luke Schenn, D, Toronto
37. Jesse Winchester, RW, Ottawa
46. John Mitchell, RW, Toronto

Senators expected lines tonight vs the Capitals

Dany Heatley - Jason Spezza - Daniel Alfredsson
Antoine Vermette - Mike Fisher - Shean Donovan
Nick Foligno - Chris Kelly - Jesse Winchester
Jarko Ruutu - Cody Bass - Chris Neil


Chris Phillips - Anton Volchenkov
Alex Picard - Filip Kuba
Jason Smith - Chris Schubert

Alex Auld

Injured player: Dean McAmmond
Healthy scratch: Brendan Bell

Bruins expected lines tonight vs Atlanta

Milan Lucic - Marc Savard - Phil Kessel
P.J. Axelsson - Patrice Bergeron - Chuck Kobasew
Blake Wheeler - David Krejci - Michael Ryder
Shawn Thornton - Stephane Yelle - Petteri Nokelainen

Zdeno Chara - Aaron Ward
Matt Hunwick - Dennis Wideman
Mark Stuart - Shane Hnidy

Starting Goalie:
Tim Thomas

Injured players: Andrew Ference, Marco Sturm

Healthy scratches: Vladimir Sobotka and Matt Lashoff.

Aaron Ward will take part of the pre-game warm-up, should he be unable to go, Matt Lashoff will take his place.

10 reasons for Sundin to Sign with Montreal

Szymon Szemberg, communications director with the International Ice Hockey Federation in Zurich, offers 10 reasons why Mats Sundin should sign with the Canadiens, posted at

From Habs Inside/Out

Dandenault to miss 6-8 weeks with broken arm; Ben Maxwell recalled

Canadiens forward-defenseman Mathieu Dandenault will miss 6-8 weeks of play after breaking his left forearm during Tuesday's tilt against the Calgary Flames the team announced today.

In 20 games this season with le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, Dandenault has 2 assists. He was playing very well since he was moved to defense after playing most of the season as a right winger.
Ryan O'Byrne took his spot in the lineup yesterday.

In another move, the Canadiens have recalled center Ben Maxwell from Hamilton of the AHL. In 26 games with the Bulldogs, Maxwell, 20, has eight goals and twelve assists for 20 points. Maxwell will likely take Koivu's spot between Andrei Kostitsyn and Matt D'Agostini tomorrow night when the Canadiens host the Capitals. Koivu is day-to-day with a lower body injury.

What's wrong with Antoine Vermette?

Coming out of a 24-goal and 53-point season, Antoine Vermette had improved his scoring numbers in each of his four NHL seasons. With the departure of Cory Stillman via free agency, Vermette was supposed to get plenty of power play time this season, even on the Senators' top unit.

However, after 26 games this season, Vermette, 26, only has 2 goals and 5 points, to go with a-8 differential. He has only one assist in the Senators' last 15 games. He can no longer play on a third line with Chris Kelly and face the opponents' 5th and 6th defensemen now that the Senators are thin upfront without Cory Stillman and Mike Comrie.

Even though he's having a tough year, the St-Agapit, Quebec, native ranks third in the league in face-off winning percentage at 61.8%. Vermette worked very hard to improve this aspect and it is finally paying off. The problem is he ranks fourth in the team face-off taken behind Kelly Fisher and Spezza. Maybe if Hartsburg was letting Vermette take more face-offs, his line would get the puck more often and therefore, control the puck longer and create more scoring chances.

The Senators re-signed Vermette on July 31, 2008, to a two-year $2.525 million contract, hoping he would put the same numbers as last year. However, Vermette is having problems putting the puck into the net. Despite poor offensive numbers, he is having plenty of scoring chances and he is shooting at the net more often than not; he is on pace for more than 200 shots this season.

Vermette currently plays on a line with Mike Fisher and Sean Donovan, not exactly great offensive players. Fisher is also having a rough year and Donovan is more of a grinder than a finisher.

Hartsburg must really try other line combinations as the current lines are not working anymore. Give quality linemates to Vermette and it's a matter of time before he starts producing as he's having excellent offensive instincts, on-ice vision and soft hands.

Maybe the best thing that could happen to Antoine Vermette would be a change of scenery, whether Bryan Murray trades him to another team, or replaces Hartsburg with a more suitable coach for Vermette...

Koivu injured in the Habs' 3-1 loss to the hapless Lightning

Canadiens' captain, Saku Koivu, left yesterday's contest in the second period after suffering a leg injury. He tried to return later in the game, but it was unsuccessful.

There will be further examination today and we should know more on the nature of the injury. Sergei Kostitsyn and Alex Tanguay took shifts at centre in place of Koivu.

The Canadiens will host the Washington Capitals on Saturday, their seventh game in a row at home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Northeast's Best faceoffs men

Invidiual rankings
Rank Name Team FO %
1 Rod Brind'Amour CAR 63.1

4 Antoine Vermette OTT 61.8
6 Patrice Bergeron BOS 58.0
14 Saku Koivu MTL 54.7
18 Dominic Moore TOR 53.7
28 Matt Stajan TOR 52.6
45 Marc Savard BOS 50.8
48 Tomas Plekanec MTL 50.3
49 Jason Spezza OTT 50.0

81 Mikhail Grabovski TOR 43.3

Team rankings
5 BOSTON 52.2
10 MONTREAL 50.8
13 OTTAWA 50.6
17 TORONTO 49.7
29 BUFFALO 46.4

Latendresse and O'Byrne back into the lineup

After watching a few games from the press box forward Guillaume Latendresse and defenseman Ryan O'Byrne will be back in the Canadiens' lineup tonight against the Lightning.

Latendresse will take Chris Higgins' place in the lineup and O'Byrne will take Mathieu Dandenault's spot. Both players were injured in Tuesday's 4-1 victory against Calgary.

Montreal's expected lines for tonight:

Alex Tanguay - Robert Lang - Alexei Kovalev
Andrei Kostitsyn - Saku Koivu - Matt D'Agostini
Guillaume Latendresse - Tomas Plekanec - Sergei Kostitsyn
Steve Begin - Maxim Lapierre - Tom Kostopoulos

Andrei Markov - Josh Gorges
Roman Hamrlik - Ryan O'Byrne
Francis Bouillon - Patrice Brisebois

Jaroslav Halak

Injured players: Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins, Mathieu Dandenault
Healthy scratches: George Laraque

Carey Price will not start tonight as he's been bothered by the flu lately. Halak will get the nod tonight. Olaf Kolzig will start for the Lightning.

Update (TSN): Forward Chris Higgins' MRI results have not been examined by team doctors so there is no firm estimate for the length of his absence. Head coach Guy Carboneau says Higgins will miss the next 2 games, but probably a full week at the very least.

Boston Bruins Injury Update

Aaron Ward missed his fourth game with an apparent left ankle injury, but continues to skate. There's a chance the defenceman could return tomorrow night in Atlanta. Marco Sturm's struggles with "concussion-like symptoms" continue, as he missed his 10th game. Julien has put an optimistic spin on the winger's status for weeks and did so again. Centre Stephane Yelle was questionable for last night's game but did play. Vladimir Sobotka, who was brought up from Providence in case Yelle couldn't go, sat out. - Boston Herald

While Kessel is on a 13 game games while Krejci nine game streak ended.

Van Ryn and Frogren ready to play

Leafs' defencemen Mike Van Ryn and Jonas Frogren both practised yesterday and both have been telling everyone they are ready to play, but that doesn't mean they will automatically be in the Toronto lineup at Buffalo tomorrow night.

There's a good chance call-up Jaime Sifers will get another game after a steady performance in his NHL debut Monday. Frogren's injury was supposed to keep him out of the game for about four weeks and it's been only two weeks, so the Leafs will make him undergo another MRI before he is officially cleared to play. His injury is easy to quantify compared to Van Ryn's injuries.

For Van Ryn, it's a little more complicated. He suffered facial injuries, a broken hand and a concussion when Montreal's Tom Kostopoulos slammed him into the glass from behind five weeks ago. Kostopoulos was suspended 3 games for this incident.

The stitches have come out and his cast is off, but the injury that can't be X-rayed, the concussion, must still be checked. Before playing, he has to undergo a test to see if his brain function compares favourably to the baseline test he did at the start of training camp.

Van Ryn was playing very well before he got injured and his return would prove to be a big boost for the Maple Leafs' depleted defense.

More to come tomorrow.

Some excerpts are from Paul Hunter's article.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Senators expected lines tonight vs the Hawks

Dany Heatley - Jason Spezza - Daniel Alfredsson
Antoine Vermette - Mike Fisher - Shean Donovan
Nick Foligno - Chris Kelly - Jesse Winchester
Jarko Ruutu - Cody Bass - Chris Neil


Chris Phillips - Anton Volchenkov
Alex Picard - Filip Kuba
Jason Smith - Brendan Bell

Martin Gerber

Injured player: Dean McAmmond
Healthy scratch: Chris Schubert

Sabres expected lines tonight vs Tampa Bay

Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Paul Gaustad - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Clarke MacCarthur - Adam Mair - Ales Kotalik
Daniel Paille - Nathan Gerbe - Maxim Afinogenov

Jaroslav Spacek - Craig Rivet
Tony Lydman - Andrej Sekera
Henrik Tallinder - Teppo Numminen

Ryan Miller

Injured players: Tim Connolly, Patrick Kaleta
Healthy scratches: Andrew Peters, Nathan Paetsch

Bruins expected lines tonight vs the Capitals

Milan Lucic - Marc Savard - Phil Kessel
P.J. Axelsson - Patrice Bergeron - Chuck Kobasew
Blake Wheeler - David Krejci - Michael Ryder
Shawn Thornton - Stephane Yelle - Petteri Nokelainen

Zdeno Chara - Matt Lashoff
Matt Hunwick - Dennis Wideman
Mark Stuart - Shane Hnidy

Manny Fernandez

Injured players: Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference, Marco Sturm

Vladimir Sobotka will be a healthy scratch should Stephane Yelle be ready to go.

Brent Johnson will get the start for the Capitals and Alexander Semin apparently took part in a closed morning skate and was upgraded to a game-time decision.

Matt Stajan?! Are You Kidding Me?!

What's not surprising about the Toronto Maple Leafs season through the first 28 games is their record. Sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference with 26 points through 28 games shouldn't be all that shocking; even for those fans who believed the Leafs would be so horrible they'd be in the running for the 1st overall draft pick in 2009. What is surprising, however, is that Matt Stajan is leading the Leafs with 23 points (7g, 16a). Granted, with power play time and two big, strong wingers by his side, there are a lot of players in the NHL who could produce at slightly under a point per game. What really baffles me is how Stajan can be so weak on the puck, have no real physical presence on the ice, and yet Ron Wilson continues to use him in key situations.
Credit should be given where credit is due. Matt Stajan is in fact leading the Leafs in points. Now, do I believe that this trend will continue throughout the season? Absolutely not. But, at the moment, he should receive at least some praise.

Which brings me to the entire point of this blog. For a long time I have been hoping the Leafs would deal away Stajan (not to mention a few other members of the current roster) and with Brian Burke's impending roster upheaval, now could be as good a time as any. Stajan is by no means a number 1 centre in the NHL but when you produce just under a point per game there are those teams who are so disillusioned to believe that Stajan would be a huge asset for them. I really think that Stajan's stake league wide has no where to go but down from this point. To me it's time that the Leafs capitalized on the hype that surrounds one of their younger players.

Alexander Steen is the perfect example of what not to do. This kid had such potential and came up in a number of trade rumours but the Leafs were reluctant to move him. His stock eventually plumeted and they had to package him with Carlo Colaiacovo in order to get Lee Stempniak. I by no means am ripping Stempniak, but I think they could have fetched more for Steen had they traded him at the peak of the league's interest. I feel as though, at the moment, we have reached the plateau of interest in Stajan (or at least are on the cusp of reaching it).

Right now he has the points to support such a claim; he's also playing in all the right situations, has a good face/off percentage and is a solid leader. Not that I think the Leafs can expect a monster return from a Matt Stajan trade but I definitely think it would be a good starting block to Burke's inevitable roster shift.

The Maple Leafs should be content with their current record but that shouldn't stop Burke from putting a stamp on this roster. They should be accentuating players like Nik Antropov, Alexei Grabovski, Niklas Hagmen, Luke Schenn, Anton Stralman and Nikoli Kulemin (among others) by trading away such players as Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Jason Blake to further compliment them.

Don't get me wrong, I sincerely doubt that Burke will be able to unload Jason Blake on anybody. Even if Mike Milbury was still running the New York Islanders I would still believe the Leafs are stuck with this bonehead of a contract. He'll continue to take ice time away from younger, deserving players until his contract expires. But, again, the point of this blog was to illustrate why I think Stajan should be moved. Even though I am sure some people will disagree, I would even go so far as to move Kaberle to one of the teams he has supposedly added to a list of teams he'd agree to be moved to. Maybe I'm hoping for too much. Let's just start by capitalizing on Stajan's value and in turn creating that much more opportunity for the growth and development of the young players that truly are the future of the Maple Leafs.

If you're interested, visit my other blog (Red Wings Blog) at

Time for D'Agostini to get an apartment in Montreal

After playing 20 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL, during which he recorded 14 goals and 11 assists for 25 points, forward Matt D'Agostini was recalled by the Montreal Canadiens on November 28th.

After watching his first game from the press box in Washington, a 3-0 loss, D'Agostini was inserted in the line-up the next day at home against the Buffalo Sabres. D'Agostini, 22, played 13:52 that night, finishing with a +1 differential.

Paired with captain Saku Koivu and Andrei Kostitsyn, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. native has shown flashes of brilliance since he was promoted to the Habs' first line. In five games with the Canadiens this season, D'Agostini now has 4 goals, 1 assist and a +4 differential. He is currently on a 4-game scoring streak.

The 6-0, 200 lb, right wing is only one of two right-handed forwards with the Habs this season (Robert Lang is the other) which gives the Canadiens another weapon on the power play. He uses his speed to find open areas on the ice and create scoring opportunities. He really likes to drive the net where he scores most of his goals.

D'Agostini might be the last year's Sergei Kostitsyn who was recalled in early December 2007. Kostitsyn sparked the Habs offense with his skills and speed, notching 27 points in 52 games after beginning the season with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

D'Agostini's fortune is Guillaume Latendresse's nightmare, the latter being a healthy scratch for the Habs last 4 games. After a quick start (6 points in 5 games), Latendresse slumped to a point where Guy Carbonneau had no choice, but the put him in the press box.

With the latest injury to Christopher Higgins (likely a separated shoulder), Latendresse is supposed to draw back into the lineup against the Lightning on Thursday. If the Habs were to lose Higgins for an extended period of time, look for GM Bob Gainey to tell Matt D'Agostini to get an apartment in Montreal to finish the season with the Habs.

D'Agostini was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the 6th round, 190th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

Toronto Marlies update

Kris Newbury leads the team with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists).
Tim Stapleton ranks second on the Marlies with 22 points (four goals, 18 assists).
Jeremy Williams ranks third on the team in points with 14. Williams was recalled prior to Monday's game against the Islanders. Williams notched 1 goal and 1 assist in the 4-2 Leafs' victory.

Darryl Boyce leads the team with 67 penalty minutes.
Andre Deveaux made his NHL debut on November 27 against the Senators. He became the first player from the Bahamas to ever skate in an NHL game. This season in 13 games with the Marlies he recorded eight points (six goals, two assists) and ranked first on the team with 54 PIM before being called up.

Netminder Justin Pogge has 9 wins, 7 losses in 18 games. He has posted a 2.91 GAA to go with a .892 save %.

The Marlies currently rank fifth in the AHL North Division with an 11-10-0-2 record for 24 points through 23 games.

The Marlies won the North Division last season with a record of 50-21-3-6 for 109 points. The 109 points set a Maple Leafs affiliate record.

Darth Gerber starting vs Chicago tonight

With the Senators 12th in the conference and in dire need of a lift back to the winning ledger, coach Craig Hartsburg has made the logic- defying decision to start Gerber in goal tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, one of only four NHL teams to have hit the 90-goals-for plateau at the end of yesterday’s business hours.

It will be the first start in a more than a month for Gerber, and if he’s to get another one any time soon, he’ll have to play very well.He last played on November 7tth when he lost 2-1 to Carolina.

“With this busy week, it’s a good challenge for our team, but it’s a good challenge for Martin,” Hartsburg, who was expected to break up a back-to-back situation for Alex Auld by giving Gerber a game in either Washington Friday or back home against Tampa Saturday, said before climbing aboard a charter for the Windy City. “We trust that Martin can go in and play good for us.”

Source: Ottawa Sun

Habs Vs. The Natural

Habs Inside/Out Had this yesterday how the Habs do against teams with a natural element to their name

Dandenault out with broken arm

Canadiens's head coach Guy Carbonneau has just announced that defenceman Mathieu Dandenault is out with a broken arm suffered tonight in the second period when checked into the boards.

Dandenault finished the shift in great distress before he finally left the ice.

Expect D Ryan O'Byrne back in the lineup Thursday. No word yet on any callups.

Forward Christopher Higgins is headed to the doctor tomorrow for an MRI on what was reported to be an upper-body injury.

Carbo says he has no way of telling whether he's out for a day or six weeks.

Source: Dave Stubbs

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hi Everyone

The creator of the blog invited me to start blogging for his site and I said I am for sure in. I will tell you a bit about myself, and do some real blogging later. I am in the middle of exams at University of Guelph so kinda busy right now. I been a hockey fan for as long as i know, I  think since I was born. No one is a hockey fan really in my family except me.  I remember by first game was in the Forum with my cousin and he bought me habs PJs which the top is on a teddy bear which i got when I was young. I remember the tremblay era god that was bad. You open The Gazette and instead of seeing a picture of the habs you see Tremblay biting his tie or something. Then there was Houle who would flip flop between rebuilding and going for the that year. Then the Roy incident, thank god i was young because if I was older I do not know what I would have done.

I am currently in Ontario, and I follow the habs as much as I can. I read hockey everyday and crave too know as much as I can. Usually hockey takes me away from studying. I read up about every team. So I know what is happening through the whole NHL.

For something quick as my first post and would be weekly I will do a weekly North East Ranking on the week they had. So let me begin starting Dec. 1st ending this Sunday Dec. 7th:

1.  Boston - they are still having playing strong and has not tampered off from beginning of November. They have a few small injuries to Sturm but nothing to one of there big players. Both of there goalies are playing phenomenal, I do not see them trading Fernandez anytime soon. Lucic is playing amazing and is really having a year playing physical and putting in the goals.

2. Montreal - Finally looking back in form. They had 2 wins and 1 OTL. Beat Atlanta but a near loss after Atl tied the 3-0 game in the 3rd in 1 less than a minute, thankfully Montreal prevailed. The came all out and dominated the Rangers. which played the night before. Then a OTL to NJ which went to OT due to a soft goal let in by Price. Montreal lines are clicking 5 on 5 and even though Kovalev is on a slump he is getting assists which is nothign wrong with that. Komisarek coming back would make even better.

3. Ottawa - There first line is finally back together and Spezza got a hattie against the Pens. There two wins last week cannot be said they are back on track. They beat Atlanta which they shoulld have if they did not something would have happened in Ottawa. While beating Pittsburgh is an acomplishment which I am not taking away but they are wrecked in the back end and this would be the time you would want to play them with out Fleury, Whitney and Gonchar....and now well Gill. I would not take any of the J-Bo to Ottawa seriously who in Ottawa does Florida really want...

4. Buffalo - Been playing poorly latley and need to find there game quickly. Had a promising beginning of the season but since November it went down year and they ran out of the winning fumes from October. They were 1-2 last week and got shutout in one of there losses to Nashville to the rookie Pekka Rinne. They are missing there transitional game. They are missing Soupie and they need a player to replace him via "A" or trade. Until then unless they can get some help from forwards to bring it up and chip the puck to Vanek they will be playing like this and Ottawa could pass them.

5. Toronto  - Last week they were on there Western swing. Where they won 1 out of 3 to the worse team out of the 3. Played LA, Phx and SJ. They were out of the SJ as soon as the puck was dropped but who was expecting them to come out and win, if they did would have been a big win for them, bigger than the Detroit win.  Being really it was only the first period which they lost. They beat LA in the first game after being down 1-0 until the 3rd. Last game was 6-3 loss to the Coyotes which they loss in the 3rd was close until then. They would need a stronger game fron Toskala. The bright spot was Blake having a 3-pointer last week and just saying had one this week also. 

Habs' Core In Need of a Shake-Up

Twenty-six games into the season, and the Habs have recorded 35 points (15-6-5).

At first glance, it appears the Habs are performing nicely for their 100th anniversary, but dissecting the Habs' play will surface, for the most part, frustration amongst their fanbase.

That's not to say the Habs are playing poorly, but current indications suggest the Habs are not Stanley Cup quality.

The Habs' biggest problems stem from the following:

Lack of offensive defensemen

Beyond Andrei Markov, who do the Habs have on the team who is capable of generating offense on the back-end? GM Bob Gainey underestimated the impact of Mark Streit and Sheldon Souray, but it's nothing he can't fix. While calling-up AHL Hamilton Bulldogs' offensive defensemen like Yannik Weber and Mathieu Carle may fill the void, their impact come playoff time will come in question, and considering the Habs are going for the Cup this season, that's a risk they can't afford at the moment.

Lack of an elite forward

This season, Saku Koivu stands as the Habs' top point-producer with 22 points in 26 games. This is no disrespect to Koivu, but the Habs need a better offensive leader -- Koivu is a great leader, and those who watch him will never question his impact on the team, but offensively, it's time for a new face. And no offense to Alexei Kovalev, but the 34 year-old is inconsistent and cannot be depended on to lead this team to their 25th Stanley Cup.

I think Gainey will be considerably more active come the NHL Trade Deadline. Whether the pressure from the Habs' centennial season will prove to be beneficial or not is the question, but in a season like this, it's best for Habs fans to buckle up and follow the ride -- wherever it's going to take them.

All that said, here's my proposal to shape this club into a Stanley Cup caliber team:
Trade Kovalev and Higgins (and some prospects if need be).

That's it.

I won't mention potential players in return, but acquiring a top-4 defenseman and an offensive forward should be Gainey's top priorities at the Trade Deadline. If he has to package prospects to sweeten the pot (which he would most likely have to do), so be it. If it means bringing Montreal a Stanley Cup, I’m sure the fans would oblige.

In unloading two forwards, the Habs' top two lines would look like this (ignore the line combos):

Tanguay - New Player - A.Kostitsyn
S.Kostitsyn - Koivu - Plekanec

Not to mention Markov would finally have a capable offensive defenseman to pass to on the PP.

This is just an idea, but one thing is for certain, Gainey will have to do something if he wants to reward Habs fans with the shiny silver Cup at season's end.

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller claims ref cursed at him

by Mike Harrington at the Buffalo News:

The Buffalo Sabres weren't happy with the officiating during Monday's 4-3 win at Pittsburgh as they dealt with nine minor penalties and three two-man disadvantages.

Goaltender Ryan Miller called it a "slanted officiating job" today and said the men in stripes weren't behaving too well either.

At the end of a 5-1/2-minute session with reporters today in the Amherst Pepsi Center, Miller was asked about an end-of-practice chat with coach Lindy Ruff. The Buffalo goaltender revealed he was telling his coach that one of the officials swore at him during a stoppage in play a couple of minutes before the Sabres received a bench minor for arguing an interference call on Thomas Vanek.

"It was just about the referee last night, a brief conversation I had with the ref that was a little surprising to me," Miller said. "He told me to "go [bleep] myself' because I was just asking a question. I was just kind of joking around [to Ruff], saying, "Maybe that kind of started what got the bench minor going.'

"To be honest, I was respectful. I asked him a question and he told me maybe I should "go [bleep] myself."

Tim Peel and Justin St. Pierre worked the game. Asked which referee it was, Miller responded, "I'm not going to get into it" and Sabres spokesman Chris Bandura ended the session.

Ruff had already spoken to reporters by the time Miller's situation came to light. A call to the NHL for comment has not yet been returned.