BURNSIDE: Greetings, my friend. Can you believe that it's been more than a month since the Olympic hockey tournament began? We wondered how that break would effect NHL teams and, as we head into the final month of the regular season, it's obvious in at least a couple of cases where teams really took advantage of the break -- and the fact they did not have a lot of players participating in the Olympics -- to jump-start their stretch run. I know you think the San Jose Sharks, a team you have spent a lot of time covering in the playoffs (there's actually a bronze statue of you and mascot S.J. Sharkie in front of the SAP Center), really took advantage of having Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, just coming off injury, rest up during the break. As of Friday morning, the Sharks are 6-1-1 since the break ended and have won four in a row to pull into a tie with Anaheim atop the Pacific Division, no small achievement given the Ducks' big lead at one point and the importance of finishing first and avoiding the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs.
LEBRUN: I'd like to move to San Jose in retirement, a little secret I'll share with you. But, yes, the Sharks have been on fire since the break, using time off perfectly as Logan Couture and Raffi Torres were able to have extra time before coming back from injuries. But I think the older guys, such as Thornton and Boyle, really benefited. It brings me back to a comment NHLPA boss Donald Fehr told me during a chat we had in Sochi during the Olympics. I was asking him why or how such a majority of players seem to favor Olympic participation, even though such a small minority of the membership actually gets to play in them. He had a few responses to that but one of them, which I had never thought of, is that many of the veteran players around the league say they appreciate the Olympic break, the actual time off, to rest their bones and bumps and bruises. In non-Olympic years, they just don't have that opportunity, the All-Star break not really counting as much time off. So, certainly, I'd say with the Sharks sending only four players to Sochi -- as much as the team took a hit to its pride, given how many talented players the Sharks have -- I'd San Jose has greatly benefited from having so many key players rest up.
BURNSIDE: One of the teams that's been interesting for me to watch coming out of the break is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Have you heard of them? After starting the post-Olympic break 0-1-2, the Leafs have won four of five, including a monster come-from-behind win Thursday night in Los Angeles that halted the Kings' eight-game winning streak. Indeed the Kings, as we speak, have the best post-break record in the league at 7-1. But what's fascinating for me about the Leafs is that they didn't have much in the way of Olympic representation but the guys who've been the catalyst to their strong push into second place in the Atlantic Division have been U.S. Olympians Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. You and I talked on our podcast this week about the fact Kessel might well have worked his way into Hart Trophy discussion (behind Sidney Crosby, of course). The thing is both van Riemsdyk and Kessel, who played on the same line in Sochi and of course play on the same line in Toronto, weren't very good as the Americans were shut out in their final two games in Sochi. Do you think Kessel, who was pointedly criticized for not delivering in the clutch in Russia, has used that as motivation to ensure the Leafs are playoff-bound? Or is that reading too much into it?
LEBRUN: I think that's reading too much into it. Fact is, the Kessel we're seeing now is the same one who was producing on a nightly basis for Toronto before the Olympics, which is why he's garnered Hart Trophy talk (although, as you say, Crosby will definitely win in a landslide; and I hope Ryan Getzlaf gets on the ballot as well). Toronto's big performances on the road trip in California have them, as of Friday, three points ahead of both Montreal and Tampa in the Atlantic Division. Speaking of post-Olympic performances, the Habs are only 3-4-0 since the break and you can certainly point to the absence of franchise netminder Carey Price as the biggest reason. Price, named the Olympics' top netminder after a stellar performance in leading Canada to gold, was secretly nicked up in Sochi and hasn't been able to get into the Montreal net since returning, although it sounds as though he will finally be back soon. That Habs team needs a healthy Carey Price to have any chance over the next month or two.
BURNSIDE: Fair point on Kessel. It's been interesting to look at some of the Russian players and their performance after the break, given their spectacular flame-out in the quarterfinals against Finland. Evgeni Malkin has a five-game point streak as of Friday but the former scoring champ and playoff MVP has just one goal since the break and he has talked candidly about the disappointment of the Olympic tournament. The NHL's top goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, had three goals in his first two games after the Olympics -- where he scored just once, in Russia's first game -- but has just one goal in his last six games for the slumping Caps. Olympic hangover? You tell me, my friend. On the other side of the coin, the guy who has impressed me mightily has been Semyon Varlamov, who was lifted in that quarterfinal loss to Finland in favor of Sergei Bobrovsky. Lots of consternation from Avalanche fans about Varlamov's mental state post-Olympics and yet he has been dynamic as the Avs have overtaken the Chicago Blackhawks and now sit in second place in the Central Division. The Avalanche are 6-2 since the break and Varlamov has collected five of those wins and might be the favorite now, along with Tuukka Rask of Boston, to win the Vezina Trophy. Are you surprised?
LEBRUN: Just can't be surprised anymore by anything Colorado does. The Avs are for real. Period. You mentioned Rask, and it’s interesting to note how some of the Finns have played since their emotional bronze-medal win in Sochi. Rask has been sensational in Boston, Mikael Granlund has continued his terrific play in Minnesota and gold ol' graybeard Kimmo Timonen might be playing his best hockey of the season in Philadelphia since returning home with a bronze. But what remains to be seen, because this is still very much a small sampled size of 7-8 games played per NHL team since the break, is whether there's a fatigue factor with some of the players used often in Sochi. That usually wouldn't show itself until a few weeks from now and I'm thinking in particular of all the Team Canada and Team USA guys on both Chicago and St. Louis. The Blues had contemplated sitting out some of their Olympians after Sochi but the players in question convinced the coaching staff they were fine to play. We'll see whether that was a wise decision or not in a few weeks.
Have a great weekend, pal, enjoy the best time of the season here with the stretch drive.
* Sharks: Won four straight games
* Sharks: win gives SJ 93 pts on season, tied with Ducks for most in Pacific Division
* Patrick Marleau (SJ): Two goals; 60th multi-goal game of career (tied for eighth-most among active players).
* Sharks: 1-3 on power play; entered game 1-23 on PP since Olympics.
From Elias: Patrick Marleau scored a pair of goals for the Sharks in their shootout win at Columbus. Remarkably, it was Marleau's first multi-goal game since he began the lockout-delayed 2012-13 NHL season by scoring two goals in each of San Jose's first four games (Jan. 20-26, 2013).
Maple Leafs 3, Kings 2
* Kings: Loss snaps 8-game win streak.
* Kings: Led 2-0, allowed 3 unanswered.
* James Reimer (TOR): Saved all 31 shots he faced; came in to start 2nd period after Jonathan Bernier left with injury
Wild 2, Rangers 1
* Wild: Snap three-game winless streak (0-1-2 past three games).
* Rangers: 2-4-1 in past seven games.
* Zach Parise (MIN): Game-winning goal; four goals in last six games.
* Darcy Kuemper (MIN): 29 saves; 6-1-1 in past eight starts
Bruins 2, Coyotes 1
* Bruins: Seven consecutive wins; longest win streak since 2011-12 (also seven games).
* Zdeno Chara (BOS): Scored 16th goal; three shy of career-high 19 goals.
* Shane Doan (PHX): Played his 1,300th game (54th all-time)
All the Ducks coach will have to do is point to the standings on the board and circle that little two-point gap that separates his club from the hard-charging San Jose Sharks atop the Pacific Division, even if Anaheim has a game in hand.
"They're not losing," Boudreau said of the Sharks, who closed to within two points after Tuesday night's 6-2 drubbing of Toronto.
Nope, the Sharks haven't done a lot of losing lately.
On Jan. 15, following a 9-1 crush job by Anaheim over Vancouver, the Ducks were 13 points ahead of San Jose. Since then, Anaheim has gone 7-7-2 while the Sharks have sizzled to a 13-5-1 record to erase 11 points between them.
Did we mention, meanwhile, that the Los Angeles Kings have won eight straight games?
Suddenly, a Ducks team that has been sitting comfortably atop the Pacific Division nearly all season has its work cut out with a month left in the regular season.
"Actually, I think it's a good thing," Boudreau told ESPN.com on Wednesday morning on the phone from Calgary. "It makes all the games relevant, and we get into the playoff push where we can't sit there and be content. If you want to be first overall, all these things count now. So we'll see what our team is made of before the playoffs."
He has a point there. I've maintained the past few years that Vancouver winning the old Northwest Division so easily and early in the regular season left the Canucks unprepared for playoff hockey after lollygagging over the final month. They were upset by the eighth-seeded Kings in 2012 and swept by the Sharks last season, both of those clubs having had to scratch and claw over the final month to get into the playoffs.
Now the Ducks suddenly have some heat on them, which might be a good thing.
"Every team has its own sense of urgency," Boudreau said. "I liken it to a kid having to do homework or having a project at school. Your mom and dad can tell you: 'You've got to study for this. You've got to do this before next week.' But that kid knows exactly when that last moment is before he really has to get to work.
"Say we went from 14 points ahead to 10 points ahead, if we said, 'We have to get going now.' But the players themselves know the sense of urgency. Now it's two points. If they don't know it's now, then they're never going to know."
It's not like the Ducks are playing poorly. They have lost their last three games (two in a shootout) but outshot Montreal, Pittsburgh and Toronto by a combined 117-71 in the process.
In fact, statistics are all in the eye of the beholder. While you can point out that the Ducks have won only three of their past nine games (3-4-2), you can also turn around and say they've lost in regulation only once in their last six games (3-1-2).
Still, it's a results-oriented business, and as of late, the pucks aren't going in even if the Ducks are controlling most of the play.
"We're just not doing the right things to score right now," said Boudreau. "What I mean by that is that we're having possession time and we're working hard, but to score goals in this league you have to go to the dirty areas. You have to create traffic in front. I think we made it pretty easy for [Leafs goalie Jonathan] Bernier the other night. He could see everything."
And if there's urgency suddenly, it's not just because of the pride associated with winning the Pacific. Let's face it, all three California teams -- all serious Cup contenders -- have thought about it in the back of their mind all year long: The best path is to avoid each other in the first round.
The Kings likely no longer have a choice in the matter, 11 points back of first place with a month to go, but you better believe the Sharks and Ducks would love to avoid a first-round date with that bruising L.A. club, a squad that of late resembles the 2012 team that won the Cup. There is no easy first-round matchup in the superior Western Conference, but avoiding L.A. would not be a bad thing.
"I guess what people are saying is that you look at last year, St. Louis and L.A. in the first round, then the Kings had to play San Jose in another strong seven-game series. They had nothing left for the Chicago series," said Boudreau. "I think that's what people are pointing to.
"But I tell you what, you can't pick a team in the West in the top eight that anybody wants to face. You look at Dallas and Minnesota and how good they're going right now. Phoenix is just starting to ramp it up now, starting to play Dave Tippett hockey where they're shutting teams down. If Mike Smith gets on a roll, he's been known to beat teams himself in the playoffs. So I don't take anybody lightly."
While a first-ever Ducks-Kings playoff series would be awesome, to say the least, I think Anaheim can live with waiting until a second round to get that going.
My words, not Boudreau's, but you can take it to the bank.
Pressure already on Caps' Kuznetsov
It will be interesting to see how Washington head coach Adam Oates employs Evgeny Kuznetsov during the stretch run. The former first-round pick of the Caps (26th overall in 2010) made his NHL debut Monday after much anticipation and many delays. Oates admitted he was trying to shield the talented winger from expectations in what is a completely foreign game to the youngster. Kuznetsov played 10:22 in his NHL debut (and 14:52 on Tuesday night against the Penguins), lining up mostly on the team’s fourth line, although he did end up playing a shift or two with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. The issue will be how quickly to try to accelerate the learning process for the 21-year-old. The Caps are life and death to make the playoffs and one of the team’s critical areas of deficiency is its depth scoring. After Ovechkin’s 44 goals there isn’t a 20-goal scorer on the roster. The Caps are one point out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but have two teams to jump over, have played more games and have a poor tiebreaker with just 22 regulation or overtime wins. In short, whether it’s fair or not, how quickly Kuznetsov adapts to the North American game might say a lot about whether the Caps’ streak of six postseason appearances gets to seven.
Jets are passive and winless
There’s the old chestnut about the best deal you make being the one you don’t make. Right now that doesn’t really apply to the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets, of course, made their big move earlier in the season when they fired head coach Claude Noel and then caught fire under new head coach Paul Maurice. But in spite of crawling back to within a point or two of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Jets were strangely passive at the deadline, neither moving potential free agents Devin Setoguchi or Chris Thorburn nor adding pieces that might actually push them into the postseason for what would be just the second time in franchise history. Their competition did not sit idly by. The Phoenix Coyotes added Martin Erat, while Dallas GM Jim Nill straddled the fence by trading defenseman Stephane Robidas to Anaheim while keeping free agents Ray Whitney and Vernon Fiddler (and adding Tim Thomas). Both teams have played well of late and are ahead of the Jets in the standings. Now we’d be praising GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to the skies if the Jets had reeled off a few wins in a row after the deadline to prove not just to the public but to themselves that their strategy was sound. But they have now gone winless in four and have failed to collect a W in the three games since last week’s trade deadline. The bottom line? As of Wednesday morning, the Jets were six points out of the final wild-card spot with two teams to dislodge and they are not in a good situation vis-a-vis the tiebreaker. In short, the chances of the Jets arresting the franchise history of fading to black come playoff time are slim to slimmer.
Fair for Devils to get pick back?
In theory, I don’t have any problem with the NHL relenting on its original penalty for salary-cap shenanigans in the New Jersey Devils' original contract attempt with the erstwhile Ilya Kovalchuk and reinstating their 2014 draft pick by locking them into the 30th pick in Philadelphia. When Daniel Alfredsson explained last summer how he and the Ottawa Senators had basically cooked up his last salary to beat the cap system and the league failed to act, well it just seemed fair that the Devils at the very least should get their draft pick back. But know this, loads of teams aren’t big fans of this decision. So the Devils are locked into 30th; it still robs the teams that draft behind them in the second round of a pick or, rather, positioning. Let’s say the Oilers draft first overall (don’t they always?). The Devils in theory are getting their pick at the top of the second round. Fair? Not for Edmonton or for Florida, etc. And the fact that this draft pick was given back at least in part as a show of good faith for the new ownership group in New Jersey does not sit well with other teams, either. Nor should it given the kind of precedent this has the potential to set.
Struggling a relative term for Bruins
Boston GM Peter Chiarelli admits he wasn’t thrilled with the way his team came out of the Olympic break. First, the Bruins were beaten by lowly Buffalo 5-4 in overtime. Then the Caps got the better of the Bruins by a 4-2 count. Even though the Bruins entered the break on a 3-0-1 stretch, Chiarelli acknowledged you never know how a sudden stoppage in play will affect your team.
“Sometimes you come out of it in a funk,” Chiarelli told ESPN.com this week.
Good thing for the Bruins "funk" is a relative term. Since a disappointing return, the Bruins have rebounded to play some of their best hockey of the season. In fact, they have played so well that at one point this week they overtook Pittsburgh for top spot in the conference in a battle that now seems destined to go down to the wire. Not that the Bruins are necessarily focused on the standings, but rather on making sure their style of play is on display on a consistent basis, as it has been during their current five-game winning streak.
“I liked how we responded,” from the slow post-Olympic start, Chiarelli said.
The Bruins tightened up their defensive game and have been rolling offensively, getting timely contributions from up and down the lineup -- the calling card of the Bruins team that won a Cup in 2011 and then went to the Cup finals last spring.
“For us, it’s about having the four lines and three defensive pairs going and that’s hard to do. You have to have everyone in sync,” Chiarelli said.
This is a Bruins team that underwent significant change up front during the offseason with Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton and Jaromir Jagr all headed to different teams. But in recent days, the Bruins’ third line of Carl Soderberg, Chris Kelly and Loui Eriksson has caught fire and been a catalyst to their charge to the top of the conference standings. Kelly is a veteran presence down the middle and Soderberg’s skating has improved, which is important for a player with his size. Eriksson, the key to the deal that sent Seguin to Dallas at the draft last June, is making the kinds of plays that the Bruins expected he would when they made the deal.
“That third line has really been key,” Chiarelli said.
As for watching the standings, the Bruins finished behind the Penguins last season, but when the two met in the conference finals, it didn’t matter to the B's when they swept the favored Penguins.
“It’d be nice to be there,” Chiarelli said of the top seed. “But we don’t focus on it.”
Statues all around
It is the season of the statue, apparently. The Philadelphia Flyers will unveil a 1,300-pound bronze statue of Hall of Fame coach Fred Shero at Wells Fargo Center on the morning of March 15. It’s fitting the unveiling of the statue honoring the man who coached the Flyers to their only Stanley Cup championships, in 1974 and 1975, will happen before the Flyers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose general manager, Ray Shero, is Fred Shero’s son. That’s a nice touch. A few weeks later, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have a similar unveiling near their home building in Tampa. A nine-foot sculpture depicting former captain Dave Andreychuk holding the Stanley Cup aloft as he did after the Lightning edged Calgary in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals will be unveiled during a pregame ceremony on April 5. Andreychuk is sometimes a forgotten figure in the Bolts’ seminal run to their lone championship. The focus has often been on Brad Richards, captain Vincent Lecavalier and the recently traded Martin St. Louis, but Andreychuk’s leadership and his willingness to adapt his style at that stage of his career to a more defensive role were crucial to the team’s overall success. Now fans will be reminded of that every time they head to a Lightning game.
That's the sort of effect Varlamov has had whenever he's taken the net against the Blackhawks this season. He has been among the league's top goaltenders against all opponents this season, but he's been extra special against Chicago.
Varlamov has stopped 131 of 136 shots for a .963 save percentage and won all three of his starts against the Blackhawks this season.
On Wednesday, Varlamov will get one more regular-season chance to thwart the Blackhawks and their league-best offense. If the Avalanche win, they will move ahead of the Blackhawks and into second place in the Central.
"We're happy to have a chance to play for second place [Wednesday]," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Tuesday. "We don't know what's going to transpire by the end of the season. But just to be in that position having home-ice advantage, it means a lot to our team. At the same time, we know Chicago is a very good team. We know that they're a good challenge for our team."
The Blackhawks see their challenge as trying to find ways to get pucks by Varlamov. He made 36 saves on 38 shots against them in a 4-2 win on March 4. He made a season-high 46 saves on 48 shots in a 3-2 overtime win on Jan. 14. He had 36 saves on 37 shots in a 5-1 win on Nov. 19. He also had the backup effort on Dec. 27.
"He's a great goalie," Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw said Tuesday. "He always stands on his head in those big games. We've just got to get traffic and get pucks to the net. They're not all going to be pretty, but we've got to find a way to put an ugly one in."
Shaw accounted for one of the five Blackhawks goals against Varlamov when he scored on a rebound on Jan. 14. The other Blackhawks goal that game came when Johnny Oduya redirected a Brandon Saad shot in front of the net.
Saad believes the key Wednesday will be capitalizing on those sort of chances again around the net.
"He's done a great job against us, but I don't think we worry about it too much," Saad said. "We've faced some good goaltenders. Getting inside, getting to the net [is important]. We're getting shots, but they may not be the best quality shots. I think bearing down and getting to the net and getting rebounds is why we'll have success."
Whichever team finds success Wednesday could end up benefiting greatly down the road. The Blackhawks, Avalanche and St. Louis Blues are jockeying for spots atop the Central. After 65 games, the Blues lead the way with 95 points and a 44-14-7 record and are followed by the Blackhawks with 90 points and a 38-13-14 record and the Avalanche with 89 points and a 42-14-5 record.
The Blackhawks and Avalanche don't meet again after Wednesday. The Blackhawks and Blues play twice more, and the Blues and Avalanche face each other once more.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville knows the importance of Wednesday's matchup.
"I just think we've got to prioritize every shift and take nothing for granted against that team because they're going to be excited," Quenneville said. "It's our last four-point game against them. At the end, it could have a lot to do with sorting out who's going to finish ahead of who."
* Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT): Fifth shutout of the season, tied for second in NHL.
* Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT): Second shutout of the Capitals this season, third in his career; first goalie to shut out Caps twice in season since 2010-11.
* Penguins: Eight straight wins versus Capitals.
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): Held without a point in four straight games for second time this season.
Sharks 6, Maple Leafs 2
* Joe Pavelski: Two goals (34), assist; second three-point game in last three games.
* Joe Thornton: Three assists (55); third game with three assists this season.
* Sharks: Third straight win overall; 4-0-1 in last five games.
* Maple Leafs: Loss snaps three-game win streak.
Stars 3, Blues 2 F/OT
* Jamie Benn (DAL): First career OT goal; goal and assist (six points past three games).
* Stars: Won three straight games (4.3 goals/game).
* Blues: Loss snaps four-game home win streak versus Stars.
* David Backes (STL): no points, five shots, minus-2, (one point in last four games).
Blue Jackets 4, Red Wings 1
* Blue Jackets: Have won five of past six games; lost previous three (0-2-1).
* Blue Jackets: Scored final four goals after trailing 1-0; three in less than six-minute span in third period.
* Red Wings: 0-4 on power play; 0-7 the past two games.
Hurricanes 3, Rangers 1
* Rangers: Have 10-game win streak versus Hurricanes snapped.
* Hurricanes: Second win in last nine games
* Cam Ward (CAR): 24 saves, first win since Dec. 31 versus Canadiens.
* Jordan Staal (CAR): Go-ahead goal; second straight game with multiple points (two assists in loss to Devils).
MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins haven’t had much success against the Montreal Canadiens within the past calendar year, but they are hoping their recent string of success carries over into Wednesday night’s game at Bell Centre.
The Bruins are in the midst of a five-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 22-9 during the stretch. After Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, the Bruins were given Monday off to enjoy the warm weather before traveling to Montreal on Tuesday morning.
In preparation for Wednesday’s game, the Bruins held practice Tuesday afternoon at Bell Centre, and afterward coach Claude Julien remained mystified as to why the Bruins have lost five in a row to the Canadiens.
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that, but I can tell you one thing, I don’t think we’ve played well against them,” Julien said. “Have they given us trouble or have we given ourselves trouble? That’s the thing we’ve got to figure out here because, in my mind, it’s not to take any credit away from them but I’m going to talk more about this year.
“The game in Boston we just weren’t playing well at all, so hopefully tomorrow we’ll paint a different picture, and if we play the way we’ve played lately, I think it’s going to be a great game. We’ve just got to focus on that.”
The Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division with 89 points and Montreal is third with 77 points. The Canadiens have won both games against Boston this season, but Montreal coach Michel Therrien said his team is not taking Wednesday’s contest for granted.
“First of all, the Bruins, this is a good hockey team,” Therrien said. “They are battling with Pittsburgh right now for first place in the conference and every game is a new challenge. Tomorrow is no different and it’s a huge challenge for us.”
The last thing the Canadiens see when they exit their locker room is a giant picture of them celebrating a goal against the Bruins. It’s not like Montreal needs any added motivation against the Bruins, as the Canadiens always are at their best when Boston comes to town. While the Bruins are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, Montreal is 6-3-1.
“They’re playing well, and even though they lost their last game, their lineup is strong and solid and they always give us a good run,” Bruins forward Gregory Campbell said. “It’s important for us to know that the job’s not done yet and to carry on what we did in Tampa and Florida.”
In the first matchup of the season between the teams, the Bruins dominated the majority of the game. However, Boston’s second period on Dec. 5 at Bell Centre was one of its worst 20 minutes of play this season and the Canadiens finished with a 2-1 win. Julien was disgusted after the game because of the team’s implosion.
Montreal dominated the second game of the season series with a 4-1 win over the Bruins on Jan. 30 at TD Garden. The Canadiens embarrassed the Bruins, who simply had no answers.
Now, in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season, the Bruins hope to reverse their misfortunes against the Canadiens.
“They play us hard,” Campbell said. “A lot of the matchups in the league aren’t dependent on where teams sit in the standings. It’s more of how you might match up against a team, and in this case, it’s a major rivalry, so both teams are always up for the games.”
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has struggled against the Canadiens. He’s 2-10-2 against Montreal and was pulled after allowing three goals on 18 shots during Montreal’s win at TD Garden in January.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since the Olympics, practiced with the team Tuesday, and while Therrien said his No. 1 goalie is improving, he will not play against the Bruins.
From a defensive standpoint, Julien made some changes to the team’s blue line on Sunday in Florida. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton was a healthy scratch, but Julien said that will not be a permanent thing. When asked if Hamilton would be back in the lineup against the Canadiens, Julien said he hasn’t made a decision.
Hamilton has played well this season, but had a few miscues in the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. With the trade deadline additions of Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter, the Bruins have more depth defensively, which gives Julien more options.
“Dougie’s not going to sit long. Dougie has played good hockey and he’s been good for us, so Dougie is not going to be the guy that is going to be singled out here,” Julien said. “Dougie is going to be back in our lineup, and it’s just a matter of me making those tough decisions. But the good part is we’ve got a lot of games in a short span of time, so there’s lots of room for everybody to get in there.”
After Tuesday’s practice, many of the Bruins players were asked about their lack of success against Montreal. All the answers were the same. They’re not concerned with the past five games against their storied rival; it’s only about Wednesday night.
After that game, the teams play only once more during the regular season, on March 24 at TD Garden. The Bruins could use a confidence boost from these last two games because the teams might meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It's going to be a great battle. It's always fun against them, there's always a lot of history and lots of build-up also,” Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s always exciting to be here. It's a great building to play in, it's a tough building to play in. That's what you want. [Wednesday’s] game is going to be a tough battle, but that being said, that's why we play, and it's always fun.”
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL's general managers and other league personnel were gathered at a Florida golf club for a dinner to honor former Blues GM Larry Pleau on Monday night when they were alerted that something had gone horribly wrong in Dallas.
Dallas forward Rich Peverley had collapsed on the Stars' bench and immediately in Florida there was a desperate need to get more information. As the NHL's disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan always has the capability to watch video whenever games are on, even at a dinner.
He grabbed his iPad.
"My guys are back in New York doing the game in the video room," Shanahan told ESPN.com Tuesday. "They sent it to me immediately."
He shared the Peverley video with Stars GM Jim Nill, who was checking voice mails in an attempt to get any update of the situation.
Commissioner Gary Bettman, Nill, Shanahan, Colin Campbell, Bill Daly and Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen were all part of a group that went into a hallway to form the proper response, all the while trying to gather as much information as possible on Peverley's health.
Both the Stars and Blue Jackets let it be known that they strongly preferred to stop play for the night. Ultimately, Shanahan said, it was Bettman who made the call to postpone the game -- the right decision.
"He knew what to do," Shanahan said. "Gary's a very clear thinker in crisis mode. First and foremost, it was about the health and safety of Peverley."
For Shanahan, it was a reminder of the scary moment he experienced as a player when Detroit Red Wings teammate Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench during a game against Nashville in 2005. It was a moment that helped the NHL gain experience and make improvements in medical standards that might have saved Peverley's life.
In that 2005 game, Shanahan was at the end of the bench and saw commotion. He saw someone standing over Fischer and first thought a fan had gotten onto the bench. When the reality hit that it was a medical emergency, he joined his teammates in trying to get play stopped. They threw sticks on the ice, jumped over the boards. Anything to get the attention of the referees.
"The referees didn't know what we were doing," Shanahan said.
Mathieu Schneider, now an executive with the NHLPA and in Florida to represent the players in the rules debate being had by the GMs, was closer to Fischer than Shanahan. Much closer.
He said Fischer collapsed right onto him.
"That was one of the scariest moments of my career," Schneider said. "You had no idea what was happening. But then he started convulsing. It was real scary for everyone. [Red Wings head physician] Tony Colucci was right behind our bench and on top of him before anyone knew. It was a great effort to save him."
The same can be said for Peverley and the doctors in Dallas. While there was universal concern among those at the GM meetings in Florida for Peverley and the gravity of the situation, there was also gratitude that the Stars staff was as prepared as it was to respond to that situation.
"We've had a number of scary incidents over the years, probably 10-15 years. I think that has helped us compile medical emergency standards that we have in place in every building," said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. "Obviously in this instance, the fact that the doctors have to be proximate to the playing surface with immediate access to the players bench or the playing surface is important. Thank God it worked out the way it did."
The next step is moving forward.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the league had narrowed down the date on which the game between Dallas and Columbus would be made up. In following the Fischer blueprint, the plan is to play a full 60-minute game with the Blue Jackets starting with a 1-0 lead, carried over from Monday night's game.
Both the Stars and Blue Jackets were back in action Tuesday night, really the best way to honor a hockey player once the situation is stabilized. Keep on playing.
Shanahan understands the emotions the players are feeling right now and sometimes it's just best to get back on the ice.
"Look, it's tough that there's such a quick turnaround," Shanahan said. "I think they’ll have to use all of their skills as professional athletes to block things out, which they do with other things. ... My guess is that they probably all went to the hospital. Maybe had a chance to speak to him last night, certainly that helped them today."
MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins on Monday were enjoying a day off in Florida and were in the midst of a team dinner when the players learned former teammate Rich Peverley collapsed during a game due to a cardiac episode.
Peverley, who was traded from Boston to the Dallas Stars as part of the Tyler Seguin deal last July, collapsed on the bench during Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
The Stars’ medical staff quickly worked on Peverley before he was transported to the hospital. The game was postponed.
“I felt sick to my stomach,” said Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. “Obviously, I was really worried. The first thing I thought was trying to talk to some of my teammates to see if they had any updates. I reached out to Tyler after his game and was able to get a few answers from him, so it was good to hear he was feeling OK, he was stable. With that being said, thoughts and prayers are with him and his family and I’ll send lots of positive energy, also.”
Bruins forward Chris Kelly, who arrived in Boston along with Peverley at the trade deadline in 2011, said he is concerned for his former teammate and friend.
“It’s scary. Our thoughts and prayers are obviously with him and his family,” Kelly said. “It’s a scary thing. We were all out for dinner [Monday] night when we found out and the whole room was pretty shaken. It’s good to hear he’s doing better. I hope he gets home soon.”
Kelly said he understood why the Stars game was called.
“We all love hockey. We all love playing the game, but when something like that happens, at the end of the day it’s a game,” Kelly said. “There’s more important things than hockey, especially someone’s health is far, far more important than a game. I thought, obviously, that was the right call.”
In preparation for Wednesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Bruins held practice Tuesday afternoon at Bell Centre, and afterward the players were trying to get updates on Peverley. Bruins forward Shawn Thornton texted Peverley and actually received a response.
“I shot a bunch of texts to everybody. Actually Segs called me right back and gave us the 411,” Thornton said. “You never want to see that obviously, but he's one of our good friends on this team. He's one of the great guys. We were pretty worried. The room went pretty quiet, but he texted me back today though and I think he seems to be doing OK. That's a positive.”
Boston acquired Peverley from the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart on Feb. 18, 2011. Peverley quickly became a favorite in the locker room and helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup that season.
Last summer, general manager Peter Chiarelli traded Peverley and Seguin to the Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow.
On Tuesday, Julien said the Peverley trade was a business decision, but that he's still popular with the Bruins.
“Just because you make trades, we know that you separate the personal with the business side of it. The personal side of it had absolutely nothing to do with that trade because he was well-respected, like I said, by his teammates and by the coaching staff,” Julien said. “We liked Rich. He’s a good person. He was a good player. He cared about the game. He cared about his performance, to the point where sometimes he was too hard on himself. He’s a player, he’s an individual, more importantly that we got to know. Our thoughts and our prayers were with him as much as his teammates that he has now had for him. But like I said, just for us it’s glad to hear there’s a good ending at the end of this all. You always fear the worst.”
Vanek has enjoyed tremendous success against the Bruins, posting 61 points in 53 career games. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli called Vanek’s move to Montreal a challenge for Boston, but one that the team was looking forward to.
Montreal will host the Bruins on Wednesday night at Bell Centre.
Vanek participated in his first full practice with the Canadiens on Tuesday. Afterward, he downplayed his success against Boston.
“I don't know. The last four or five years, to me, Boston has been one of the better teams in the league,” he said. “You want to play your best against the best teams, but again, I think sometimes just the numbers are the numbers. I can't really tell you why that is, but I can tell you that it's a big game, it's a great team and you want to play in big games.
Vanek, who spent the majority of his career with the Buffalo Sabres, was asked about experiencing this rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens.
“The rivalries, I think, are for the fans and they're good to have in this league, but for us in here -- and I'm sure it's the same as everywhere -- it's just about winning two points,” Vanek said. “I'm sure the atmosphere is going to be great and I can't wait to experience it tomorrow.”
Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who has been sidelined with a lower-body injury since the Olympics, practiced with the team Tuesday. While Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said his No. 1 goalie is improving, Price will not play against the Bruins.
Currently, the Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division with 89 points and Montreal is third with 77 points. The Canadiens have had success against Boston this season, winning both games, but Therrien said his team is not taking Wednesday’s opponent for granted.
“First of all, the Bruins, this is a good hockey team,” he said. “They are battling with Pittsburgh right now for first place in the conference and every game is a new challenge. Tomorrow is no different and it’s a huge challenge for us.”
Let it be known that when we tracked down goaltender Ryan Miller on Monday afternoon, he was in the checkout line at Whole Foods performing one of the several errands he had mapped out in only his third full day in St. Louis.
"Today I have a car full of stuff I have to figure out how to get up an elevator. That's my next challenge of the day," Miller said with a chuckle over the phone.
The St. Louis Blues' blockbuster acquisition spent most of his first week on the road with his new team, which he said was very beneficial in getting to know the new lads.
On Sunday night, Miller moved into a furnished apartment.
"I've been running around all day trying to get things done," said Miller, whose Blues host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. "It's kind of a whirlwind, especially coming back from Sochi. Even though I didn't play as much as other guys at the Olympics, we trained really hard while we were there. With the time change, it took me a little long to adjust. It felt like [Saturday's game against] Colorado was the first game where I felt awake. Before that, I was running on adrenaline after the trade."
Not bad for a guy running on adrenaline: Miller is 4-0-0 as a Blue, having allowed only six goals.
It's the kind of first impression that was likely needed, given the immensity of this trade. The Blues were telling the hockey world they were all-in with the Miller pickup.
"That's not lost on me. I understand what's going on and the expectations that come along with it," said Miller. "It's not unlike the years in Buffalo when I played on some teams that were ranked pretty highly [back-to-back conference finals, in 2006 and 2007]. It was a similar kind of feeling, just trying to learn lessons from those seasons and be ready to perform when it counts."
Being traded for the first time can be daunting, but Miller has found a dressing room he already likes very much.
"It's been good, a nice group of guys. They've got energy and confidence," said Miller. "This group has not disappointed. Such a hard-working team, very competitive. That's what stands out so far."
Of course, there's some familiarity that helps Miller in his transition. He came over from Buffalo with Steve Ott, and in St. Louis he has been reunited with former Sabres teammates Jordan Leopold and Derek Roy. Plus, he is becoming reacquainted with Team USA teammates David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk.
"What was kind of wild was that, less than a week before I got traded, we had been sitting in a cafe with those guys in Sochi," Miller said, chuckling, referring to the Olympians. "My wife and I had gone for a walk on the Black Sea. We had a day to ourselves before we had to fly back. We hung out with Backes and his wife and family and T.J. and his mom and my wife and I.
"It was kind of ironic. We laughed about it after the trade. When I got to the Blues, we joked, 'We were on the Black Sea just six days ago.'"
Now about that white mask Miller has been wearing. When is that newly designed Blues mask coming?
"I've got one in the works," said Miller. "Obviously, it takes a little bit of time. I sent a design over to [mask creator] Ray Bishop a couple of days ago. He sent me a little teaser, so he appears well on his way with that and hopefully I'll get it soon."
Then Miller adds in a nod to his agent and former Blues netminder of the 1980s: "But until then, it's a throwback to Mike Liut with the white mask."
Miller found it tough to leave Buffalo, a comment he repeated a few times Monday, but it's clear he's quickly making St. Louis his home.
Whether it’s just for a few months or longer remains unanswered, but buckle up, NHL: The first-place Blues have their goalie and they're going for it.
* Islanders: All seven goals came in thirrd period, each from a different player.
* FROM ELIAS: Islanders' seven goals in thir ties franchise record for goals in a period, originally set on Dec. 23, 1978 vs Rangers in second period.
* FROM ELIAS: Islanders are the first team to score seven goals in a period all by different players since the Red Wings in 1998-99. The Red Wings opponent that day? The Vancouver Canucks.
FROM ELIAS: The Islanders trailed 3–0 through two periods in their game at Vancouver, but they outscored the Canucks 7–1 in the third and skated off with a stunning 7–4 win. The Islanders tied the NHL record for most goals in one game by a team that was goalless through the first two periods. It was done three previous times: twice by the Maple Leafs (Jan. 16, 1934 at Ottawa, 7–4 in overtime; and Feb. 13, 1960 vs. Detroit, 7–1), and once by the Red Wings (Nov. 27, 1998 vs. Vancouver, 7–1).
Maple Leafs 3, Ducks 1
* Phil Kessel (TOR): Goal (34), two assists; four goals in two games against Ducks this season.
* Maple Leafs: Third straight win overall (0-1-2 in previous three games).
* Ducks: Thirrd straight loss (0-1-2); 3-4-2 in last nine games overall.
* Corey Perry (ANA): Goal (34); five goals in last four games
Kings 3, Flames 2
* Kings: Eighth straight win, one shy of tying franchise record (won nine straight in 2009-10).
* Kings: Eight-game win streak is longest active in NHL.
* Anze Kopitar (LA): Goal (20); at least 20 goals in seven of eight NHL seasons.
FROM ELIAS: Anze Kopitar, who’s played his entire eight-year NHL career with the Kings, reached the 20-goal mark in a season for the seventh time when he scored L.A.’s final goal in its 3–2 win at Calgary. Kopitar’s seven 20-goal seasons for the Kings rank him sixth in franchise history, behind co-leaders Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille and Dave Taylor (12 each), and also Butch Goring (9) and Bernie Nicholls (8).
Penguins 3, Capitals 2
* Penguins: Sidney Crosby scores 30th goal and has two assists; first 30-goal season since 2010-11 (sixth career 30-goal season).
* Penguins: Chris Kunitz scored two goals, his sixth multi-goal game this season.
* Penguins: Won three of the last four games after a 3 game winless streak.
* Capitals: Alex Ovechkin held without a point for third straight game, his second-longest pointless streak of the season.
FROM ELIAS: Chris Kunitz reached the 30-goal plateau in a season for the first time in his NHL career in the first minute of the Penguins’ game at Washington on Monday, and just over three minutes later Sidney Crosby did so for the sixth time. (Kunitz scored a second goal, which was the game-winner in a 3–2 Pittsburgh victory.) It was the fourth time in franchise history that two Penguins players scored their 30th goals of a season in the same game. The other Pittsburgh duos to do that were Syl Apps, Jr. and Lowell MacDonald in 1975–76 (March 29 at Toronto), Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux in 1995–96 (Dec. 26 vs. Buffalo), and Jagr and Alex Kovalev in 2000–01 (Feb. 7 vs. Philadelphia).
FROM ELIAS: Sidney Crosby vs Alex Ovechkin - Career Head-to-Head
W-L-OTL 19-7-2 9-15-4
Goals 16 18
Assists 33 15
Points 49 33
The game was postponed.
When he dropped. It was red alert. Don't worry about the game. It was about getting the doctors"-Coach Ruff— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 11, 2014
Per Dr. Salazar, Peverley was aware of where he was when became conscious and wanted to get back in to the game.— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 11, 2014
"First thing Rich asked me when I spoke to him- 'how much time left in the period'. You know, typical athlete"-Coach Ruff— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 11, 2014
Thoughts and prayers to my old roomie Rich Peverly. May you find the strength to overcome the battles you face moving forward. @DallasStars— Jordin Tootoo (@Jtootoo22) March 11, 2014
Thoughts and prayers go out to pevs and his family thinking of you bud— Brad Marchand (@Bmarch63) March 11, 2014
Wins and losses aside the NHL is a small community. I think we can all say our thoughts are with Peverley and his family. #getwell— Bobby Ryan (@b_ryan9) March 11, 2014
Thinking about the Peverley family on this tough night— marc savard (@MSavvy91) March 11, 2014
Prayers for rich peverley— chris stewart (@CstewSTL25) March 11, 2014
Remember hockey is just a game. Thoughts and prayers go out to the health of Rich Peverley and his family. #getwellsoon— Nathan Thompson (@NateThompson44) March 11, 2014
Thoughts and prayers with Pevs right now! Scary to see something like that.— Steven Kampfer (@SteveKampfer47) March 11, 2014
Thoughts and prayers go out to Rich Peverley. Very scary what happened in Dallas tonight. Great work by the Stars' medical staff.— Martin Biron (@martybiron43) March 11, 2014
How bout Stars Rich Peverley's first words after a "cardiac event" was asking his coach how much time left in the 1st period. #amazing— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) March 11, 2014
Thoughts and prayers in Dallas... my gosh.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) March 11, 2014
- Pittsburgh is 2-0-0 against Washington this season and has won six straight against the Capitals. (They play again on Tuesday.)
- The Penguins are first in the league on the power play (25.5 percent), while the Capitals are second. (23.2 percent)
- Thirty-five of Washington's games have been decided by one goal.
- The Caps are 3-0-1 in their past four home games.
- Alex Ovechkin has one goal against Pittsburgh this season.
- The Penguins are 29-3-1 when scoring first.
- Pittsburgh is 2-2-0 on its current road trip, going 14-for-14 on the penalty kill.
- Evgeni Malkin has one goal and three assists in his past three games.