Saturday, February 7, 2009
Sunday roundup: Latest on Hawks, Hossa, Emery and Bruins' run
The longest NHL road trip of any team this season hasn't slowed down the Chicago Blackhawks. And the end is near.
Following Saturday night's game at Vancouver, the Hawks had dates in Atlanta and St. Louis later in the week to wrap up an eight-game road trek, the second longest in franchise history. "Disney on Ice" has taken over the United Center.
"It feels like it's been forever," Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook told ESPN.com this weekend. "But it's been good. It's almost over."
The first thing we thought of, and we're not sure what this says of your hockey writer, was just how the players packed for a trip like this.
"You just bring enough shirts and just hang up your suits at the hotel," said Seabrook. "That's about it. It's not too bad. The guys have it figured out, I think."
Tough to say what the highlight of the trip has been so far. A huge 4-2 win at San Jose last weekend was the most noteworthy result. But a subsequent trip to Las Vegas was pretty hard to beat.
"That was pretty cool of the team to take us there. It was a lot of fun," said Seabrook.
The Hawks were 4-1-0 on their trip before Saturday's game at Vancouver. It's been a statement trip for a young team trying to prove they're for real. Many of us in the media wondered how they would react after getting waxed by the Detroit Red Wings in a home-and-home that was capped by the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. They've showed us a lot in the way they've reacted.
"We've played well," said Seabrook. "We're figuring out how to win games. Lately, we've played a great team game, sticking together and playing as a group."
The 4-2 win in San Jose, in particular, helped boost the team's confidence level.
"It's huge for the room," said Seabrook. "The guys get pretty excited and step up for games like that. San Jose is the best team in the league; that's a tough place to get points from."
Bruins keep rolling
Everyone is getting primed for Tuesday night's big game between the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins -- the top seeds in each conference.
So is Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, who points to the recent stretch of games against solid competition as proof his team is playing the kind of hockey that should bring success in the playoffs. The Bruins are 5-0-2 in their last seven games, picking up 12 of a possible 14 points against Washington, New Jersey, the New York Rangers, Montreal, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Philadelphia again.
"We've been going through a stretch where we've played some big playoff teams," Chiarelli told ESPN.com. "It's been a good test for us. It really shows the defensive side of our game and our forecheck. Our game is compatible with the playoffs right now and that's good."
Look for Chiarelli to add a piece or two before the March 4 trade deadline, as well.
We've got some news on former Ottawa Senators goalie Ray Emery, who has left his Russian club, at least for now. Emery didn't report to his KHL team, Mytishchi Atlant, after the league's break this past week.
A source told ESPN.com the netminder is upset because the team has been short-changing him on his $2-million net salary. Apparently, Mytishchi Atlant hasn't used the right exchange rate for most of the season and Emery is about 33 percent shy right now of what he should have earned. The Russian ruble has been hammered all year long, making it hard on KHL teams to pay players.
The team is upset he didn't show up Thursday and is threatening legal action. Stay tuned on that one. There is some interest from a few NHL clubs, although he'd have to clear waivers to return and that complicates things. Emery has been terrific this season, going 20-6-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .930 save percentage.
Detroit GM Ken Holland met this week with the agents for star winger Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen. With Henrik Zetterberg signed, Holland has now shifted his focus to those two pending unrestricted free agents. His message, we are told, to both camps was he can only sign one of the two players now and the other has to wait until July 1 because of the "tagging" rule in the CBA (basically next year's payroll commitment can't go over this year's cap number).
The interesting part is Hossa is sounding like a guy who wants to stay, which he knows means taking less money than he would get on the open market. Hossa has told people around him he loves it in Detroit. He knows he won't be allowed to earn more than Zetterberg ($6.08 million cap number). He would easily earn more than $8 million on the open market.
It's a pretty clear decision for Hossa. If you want to have a chance to win every season, stay in Detroit for a few less dollars. If you want to make to cash in but never win again, sign with a team that will blow the bank on you July 1, but has no chance at the Cup. Stay in Detroit, Marian.
The Canucks, we are told, have yet to officially make a contract offer to veteran defenseman Mattias Ohlund. So, unless something drastic changes soon, it appears Ohlund is headed to unrestricted free agency. While we're sure the Canucks would love to be able to move him March 4 if they fall out of the playoff race, the fact is Ohlund controls his fate with a no-trade clause.
In the meantime, talks have also stalled with the Sedin twins, also pending UFAs. There was a meeting this past Wednesday between Canucks GM Mike Gillis and the Sedins' agent, J.P. Barry, but no progress was made.
Vancouver, meanwhile, is believed to be among a list of teams that has at least inquired about veteran blueliner Mathieu Schneider, a UFA on July 1. Montreal, Colorado, New Jersey and Buffalo may also have interest in the 39-year-old puck-mover.
The veteran goalie cleared waivers Saturday and was assigned to AHL Peoria. The last straw for Blues management, we are told, was Legace pouting on the bench Monday night after being pulled in Detroit. We're told Legace has been grumpy all season long because he didn't get a contract extension. He's also a UFA on July 1.
The Dallas Stars captain is holding out hope he can return and play one or two games before the end of the regular season. After having surgery on his torn ACL in early December, his prognosis was four to six months. Late in the regular season would put him right at four months. We wish him well. Talk about a huge boost if red-hot Dallas gets him back for the playoffs.
The Penguins demoted rookie blueliner Alex Goligoski to the AHL on Saturday. The Penguins were carrying eight defensemen and the youngster didn't dress the last two games. So, GM Ray Shero told ESPN.com he wanted to make sure Goligoski got some playing time and he'll get plenty in the AHL.
They'll have another blueliner back when Sergei Gonchar gets healthy, giving the team plenty of depth at the position. Shero hopes to translate that depth into a forward by the March 4 trade deadline. The Buffalo Sabres have shopped Maxim Afinogenov all season long (he's a UFA on July 1), but we're told the Penguins have no interest at this point.