NHL News and Notes for March 10, 2007

The team analysis features will resume in the new couple of days as the playoff pictures start to shape up more and the teams that will be making the playoffs this year become apparent.

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Colorado Avalanche rookie Paul Stasny is making a run at the Calder this year, pumping up his play as of late by going on a hot scoring streak. He’s currently on a seventeen game point streak, tying the NHL record for rookies. Between Stasny, Evgeni Malkin and Anze Kopitar, this year’s rookie race in the NHL is looking very exciting. Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal is also on a run as of late, but he is expected to finish just outside of the big three.

With the injury to LA’s Kopitar, Stasny was able to move past him in the stats. Stasny now has 65 points (22 goals and 43 assists) in just 68 games. Malkin currently leads with 71 points.

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Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby became the youngest player ever to garner two straight 100 point seasons. He is also the first player in the NHL to do it this year, scoring a power play goal tonight against the Rangers.

Despite having a fairly lengthly goal-less streak, Crosby is maintaining his scoring lead in the NHL. In fact, Crosby only has 28 goals on the season and the remainder of his points fill out as assists. Sid has only scored two goals in his past 19 games.

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Colin Campbell made no decision as of yet on the Chris Simon suspension. He met with Simon and various team representatives from the New York Islanders this morning, but could not come to a decision regarding the suspension on Simon’s brutal on-ice incident on Thursday night.

Simon said that he was “disgusted” by his actions after he had watched the tape. He also offered his apologies to Hollweg and was glad he was okay. It is still not clear as to when the league will announce their final decision on the suspension, but it is expected quite soon.

Chris Simon suspended indefinitely

Chris Simon of the New York Islanders was suspended indefinitely after a brutal incident during Thursday’s Rangers/Islanders game. Simon, frustrated after a hit from Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg, swung his stick at Hollweg’s face and hit him.

There is a hearing about the length of the suspension to take place Saturday, at which time it is expected that Colin Campbell will dole out an extensive suspension.

Hollweg fell after the incident and remained on the ice for several minutes, but was able to get up under his own power. He was bleeding from the chin and actually finished the game. Hollweg is not expected to miss any games, but he did mention that he had lost some hearing for a moment or two after the incident.

NHL News and Notes for March 8, 2007

As part of a new feature, I will summarize some of the news and notes of the day on a regular basis. This will include some important scores or game events and other items that will not get a full entry of their own.

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Penguins head coach Michel Therrien will miss his team’s Saturday game against the New York Rangers because of his father’s death. Therrien’s father passed away after a series of strokes in Montreal on Thursday.

The assistant coaches, Andre Savard and Mike Yeo, will take over in Therrien’s absence.

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The Carolina Hurricanes activated forward Erik Cole Thursday after missing seven games. Cole was out due to a torn muscle near his hip and has been out since February 20th. He currently has 51 points for the Hurricanes, with 25 goals and 26 assists.

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The offensive leaders in the NHL are currently led by Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (98 points), Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier (91 points), Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis (91 points), Ottawa’s Dany Heatley (86 points) and Atlanta’s Marian Hossa (85 points).

Tampa’s Vinnie Lecavalier currently leads the league in goals with 45, while Ottawa’s Heatley is close behind with 41 goals. Tampa’s other offensive dynamo, Marty St. Louis, is third in goal scoring with 39. Fourth in goal scoring is Atlanta’s speedy Marian Hossa with 39 goals and Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne also with 39 goals.

In terms of goaltending at this point in the season, Martin Brodeur is certainly the most consistent. He leads the league in wins (39), shutouts (12), is second behind Chris Mason of Nashville with save percentage (.924%) and is second behind Dom Hasek in goals against average (2.14).

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NHL union boss Ted Saskin reported Thursday that it was his predecessor, not himself, that had player emails monitored. Bob Goodenow, of course, flatly denied this allegation.

This is all in response to a publicized report earlier in the week that alleged that Saskin ordered the monitoring of players’ email accounts that were hosted by the union. The union plans to hold a conference call on Sunday night with its executive board, but until then Saskin will have to sweat it out and hope that passing the buck onto Bob Goodenow will help ease the pressure.

Penguins to Gamble on Las Vegas?

Pittsburgh Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle traveled to Las Vegas on Wednesday to check out the potential for moving the Penguins there. They met with Mayor Oscar Goodman and had what was said to be a “very pleasant conversation”.

Along with Las Vegas expressing interest in the team, officials from Kansas City are also interested. They are willing to offer the Spring Center, the nearly $262 million dollar facility, to the Pens with free rent and over half of the revenue.

Pittsburgh governor Ed Rendell has also apparently tabled an offer, calling it “exceptionally attractive” and saying that he was “optimistic” about the team’s chances for remaining in Pittsburgh.

All in all, it looks as if the Penguins do, in fact, move, that they will move to yet another US city and test the small markets there. Whether an NHL team will do well in a place like Las Vegas remains to be seen, but with the right marketing they could very well pull in some decent profit. As for Kansas City, that doesn’t appear so certain or realistic.

Many Canadians would likely want to see a team in Hamilton or in Winnipeg, but that likely won’t be the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ottawa Senators: Writing New Hockey Laws

Many people questioned the Ottawa Senators and their ability to approach the current NHL season during the off-season. They appeared to lose a lot of their talent in sending Chara away to Boston, losing Havlat to Chicago and dropping Bryan Smolinski to the Blackhawks as well. It looked like GM John Muckler was trying to piece together a team based on what was left, leaving many critics to wonder if the Senators would be able to ice a team that appeared to miss many key players and still have a reasonable amount of success.

Now the Senators are nearing the playoffs and are a lock for a playoff spot, sitting with a 38-23-5 record at article press time. Ottawa has an impressive 226 goals for, good for second best in the East, and boasts an impressive 22-11-2 record at home.

Ottawa did add to its nucleus this year and covered their bases rather well. One of their key acquisition was Edmonton-born Mike Comrie from the Coyotes. The 5’10 center would prove to be a valuable acquisition for the Sens as he played a key role in helping spark the offense of the team. Along with Comrie, Ottawa chose to add winger Oleg Saprykin at the deadline. Also from the Coyotes, Saprykin was charged with adding extra offensive depth to the Senators with his shifty play. The knock on Saprykin is his inconsistency.

The core of the Sens, however, would be their impressive offense. Led by captain Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa plays a run-and-run style of hockey that is rare in the East. Alfredsson’s been known to be a little lacking in the intensity department, but he still suits up for big games and still produces like a bat out of hell when he’s called upon. Currently, Alfredsson has 69 points with 23 goals.

Of course, the real offensive dynamo on the Sens is Dany Heatley. In fact, Heatley only gets better with center Jason Spezza dishing him the puck. He’s proving it, too, with a team-leading 45 goals and 45 assists. Heatley is the total package with gobs of size, reach and acres of skill. He also has a killer shot that he can release from anywhere.

Third in the superstar package along with Heatley and Alfredsson, Sens fans are very familiar with Jason Spezza. Typically the top line center, Spezza can have a tendency to play on the perimeter and avoid high-traffic areas. He still producers, though, with a quick pass through traffic or a great dish to the point on the power play. He’s tied on the Sens with Alfredsson with 69 points.

The remainder of the Senators’ forward squad shapes up nicely, with the aforementioned Comrie and Saprykin. To those two, Chris Neil adds toughness and grit, Peter Schaefer adds stickhandling ingenuity, Mike Fisher adds great two-way play, Antoine Vermette adds speed, Patrick Eaves shows a great penchant for defensive play and Dean McAmmond brings veteran experience.

The defense on Ottawa is as flashy and offensive as they come, led by Wade Redden who was good enough to help John Muckler forget all about Zdeno Chara. Redden, a true power-play quarterback, rules at both ends of the ice for the Senators and currently has 34 points. Along with Redden, the Senators depend on Andrej Meszaros, Tom Preissing, Joseph Corvo, Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov and Christoph Schubert to hold the fort.

Ray Emery is responsible for the goaltending for the Senators. With a GAA of 2.59 and an admirable save percentage of 0.915%, Emery brings his two-fisted play to the Senators after coming off of a backup season last year. He’s a classy rookie with lots of energy and puts his heart on the ice, night after night, for his team. Backing up Ray Emery is gifted veteran Martin Gerber.

With the right tools in the right spots, the Senators look to be a formidable threat in the playoffs and will likely not have to face the pesky Leafs in any round. For that reason alone, look for Ottawa to go far.

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