Woes Continue for the Islanders

The problems continue on Long Island.

Goalie Rick DiPietro is now considered out indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome. He was in action on March 20 and played for the next four games, with two wins and two overtime losses. After that, DiPietro started to complain of headaches.

According to team sources, DiPietro did not pass a neurological exam and will be out of the Islanders line-up until he can pass it.

“After the game on Sunday, Rick told our medical staff that he was suffering from headaches,” said Islanders boss Garth Snow in a press statement. “Until Rick is completely recovered, he will not play. As important as these games are, nothing is more important than Rick’s health.”

The initial injury happened as a result of a collision with Montreal forward Steve Begin back on March 13.

This all comes at a time when the Islanders had made headlines for signing DiPietro to one of the largest contracts in sports. In the off-season, they inked him for a 15-year deal that was worth $67.5 million, making him the face of the Islanders franchise for almost all of the foreseeable future.

For the time being, however, the young face of Long Island will have to wait it out until he feels better. How this affects the playoff hopes of the Islanders remains to be seen, but backup ‘tender Mike Dunham hasn’t shown himself to be reliable as of yet.

Patrik Elias Returns to the Devils

New Jersey Devils offensive forward Patrik Elias has returned to the line-up. The chances of the Devils to take the Atlantic Division have now significantly improved with the return of the best offensive talent on the team.

Elias skated with the team today and said that he was ready to go for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum. It will be his first game back since a groin injury suffered on March 15 and it couldn’t come at a better time.

New Jersey currently sits tied with Pittsburgh in the division. There are seven games left in the season for the Devils, making each one count significantly if they hope to charge at the division lead. Last year, the Devils won their last eleven games to capture the division. This year, with injuries to many key players, New Jersey doesn’t pack the same punch.

Still, Elias’ return makes for an interesting close to the season. John Madden is out with an injury at the moment too, also a groin injury. He is expected to return soon as he practiced with the team recently. Brian Gionta is also out with a groin injury, but he is on the long-term injury list at the moment. The good news there is that Gionta skated with the team on Monday in a practice.

So things are looking up for the Devils. They can still make a charge at the division with some key players returning to the line-up. For New Jersey fans, it’s not a moment too soon.

NHL News and Notes for March 25, 2007

Former NHL player agent David Frost is facing a few charges after a former NHL player’s credit card was used to buy gas. Frost is being accused of fraud, impersonation and breach of probation terms.

Police say a man in Kingston, Ontario, was trying to pay for nearly $90 in gas using a credit card registered to, you guessed it, Mike Danton.

Readers will remember Mike Danton as being the former St. Louis Blues player that is currently serving a seven and a half year sentence for trying to have David Frost killed.

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Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brett Lebda had to be carried off the ice on Saturday night after having his face smashed in to the metal supports that hold up the glass behind the goal at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Lebda was taken to Detroit Medical Centre for tests, but he is thought to have a concussion. He was pushed into the supports after being knocked with the forearm of St. Louis forward Ville Nieminen. Nieminen received a major penalty for boarding on the play.

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Atlanta forward Jon Sim underwent surgery to repair a broken left orbital bone. He suffered the fracture in a fight with Mark Bell from the San Jose Sharks.

Sim had surgery Friday. He was fifth on the team in scoring and was injured during the second period of his team’s 5-1 loss to the Sharks. Sim will be out indefinitely, but team doctors are saying that he may not be gone for the rest of the season. The Thrashers remain hopeful as they are trying to grab their first playoff berth in franchise history.

Wild ‘N Out: Minnesota’s Playoff Chances

The Minnesota Wild are in a dogfight with Vancouver for the divisional lead, making for some exciting hockey as the 2006-07 season draws to a close. The playoff teams are all but decided in the West, but the important placement of the teams is now very much up for grabs. Minnesota, for the moment (the Canucks play tonight and could change this) sit one point up on Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead.

Minnesota has been often noted for their systematic play, often playing a very defensively aggressive style with loads of forechecking. This year, Minnesota has seen a swing in a different direction and are taking a more offensive slant towards the game. With multiple trades to improve the team’s offense, the Wild look to make an impact in the playoffs if they can hold together at the seams.

The injury to goaltender Manny Fernandez certainly hurts. The Wild has instead turned to backup goalie Niklas Backstrom to guide them. Backstrom, one of many Finnish keepers in the league, is a veteran of international play and has loads of experience in the Finnish SM-Liga. He isn’t particularly tested at the NHL level, however, which may cause some problems for the Wild in the post-season. Manny Fernandez may be back in time, though, which will alleviate some of the question marks over the squad.

Defensively, the Wild are quite strong. Martin Skoula, Nick Schultz, Kim Johnsson, Kurtis Foster, Brent Burns and Keith Carney round out the defensive team for Minny. Kim Johnsson would likely be considered the leader of the pack here. He’s quick and agile at the blueline and can put together a great rush up the ice. Schultz is another rushing defenseman, but his experience leaves something to be desired in terms of playoff hockey. His tendency to blow big plays under pressure will make him a careful choice for the post-season power play.

Up front, the Wild are about moving the puck quickly and about taking shots. Marian Gaborik leads the way with this endeavour. Despite only playing 42 games in the season so far, Gaborik has an impressive 50 points. He can be tremendously sneaky, giving opposing defenders a lot to think about as he zips in and out of open spaces. Gabby plays well with a qualified center and has paired especially well this year with Pavol Demitra.

Demitra is the team’s points leader, with 64 in 67 games (25 goals and 39 assists). His ability to move the puck, coupled with his skating strength, making Demitra a tough player to move because of his strong abilities. He can be a little flimsy at times, however, and may be seeing his career come to an end in a few years. Nonetheless, Demitra is still a very versatile forward that has breathed new life into the Minnesota offense.

Brian Rolston is another big ticket for the Wild. His booming shot is legendary and his tendency to unleash the beast in the shootout has goaltenders diving out of the way. Rolston is the leadership of the Wild and leaves it all on the ice every night. He will be deadly in the post-season.

Filling out the rest of the forwards, giant forward Derek Boogaard, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Adam Hall, Mikko Koivu, Dominic Moore, veteran Mark Parrish, Branko Radivojevic, Wes Walz and Todd White bring various roles to life on the ice.

The Wild have a great combination of speed and skill. That speed and skill is adequately defended by toughness up front and more speed and skill on the back end. If the goaltending situation is able to work itself out, the Wild will be a dangerous team to play in any round of the post-season. If not, it may be a short one for the boys in Minnesota.

NHL News and Notes for March 24, 2007

The Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings have clinched playoff spots in the West. The Ducks did it with an overtime win last night, reaching the 100 point mark for the first time in their history. The Red Wings got into the post-season when the Edmonton Oilers finally won a game and beat the Colorado Avalanche.

The Ducks are set to beat all sorts of franchise victories this season, including wins and points. They are ready for the playoffs, but are still working on fine-tuning some areas of their game. The Ducks will play Detroit in their next game on Monday night.

Detroit, on the other hand, looks forward to taking on the post-season with Bertuzzi in the line-up and a well-rounded team composed of experienced defensemen and offensively skilled forwards.

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USA Hockey is getting set to honour Chris Chelios of the Detroit Red Wings for setting a record for games played among American players. Chelios surpassed Phil Housley’s mark of 1495 games back on November 24th. He has since collected 939 points (182 goals and 754 assists) in 1540 games in his career.

In a release, US Hockey pres. Ron DeGregorio said: “We’re pleased to honour Chris, undoubtedly one of the greatest American players of all time. He’s competed at the highest level for an extraordinary number of years and continues to be an extremely effective player.”

The ceremony will take place on Monday before the Wings play the Ducks.

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Philly forward and enforcer Todd Fedoruk thinks that NHL tough guys should wear padding under their gloves, much like the fighters in UFC.

“You look at extreme fighting, they’ve got those four-ounce gloves on,” Fedoruk said. He believes having the padding would lessen the extent of potential injury from the punches and make fight safer.

“They’re trained fighters and a lot of the NHL guys are trained fighters,” he said. “I myself do a lot of training in the off-season that has to do with fighting. If they (the NHL) think too many bad things are happening to us, maybe that’s a solution. But taking fighting out of the game is definitely not a solution.”

Fedoruk has twice been the victim of knock-out shots in fights this year, first with Minnesota tough guy Derek Boogard and then with Colton Orr this past week.

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