This week the news coming out of the Eastern Conference has some of a little bit of the predictable (such as injuries befalling the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Florida Panthers), the unpredictable (as in the Tampa Bay Lightening issuing a statement regarding one of their own), the league handing down punishment (as in a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs being suspended for his actions, and the Buffalo Sabres also have one of their own suspended), and the warm and fuzzy (with some off-beat news from the Columbus Blue Jackets) this week.
The injuries just keep coming for the Philadelphia Flyers. This week the team announced that the team’s strongest defenseman (and minutes leader) Michael Del Zotto is out with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. Del Zotto appeared to have injured his arm while he was defending against the New Jersey Devils’ Kyle Palmieri in the team’s 2-1 loss. When asked how long Del Zotto would be out, general manager Ron Hextall was uncertain by stating: “Probably weeks for sure.”
Another team that continues to be snake bitten, are the Montreal Canadiens. It’s been well documented that the Canadiens are missing their MVP in Carey Price, but injuries to Daniel Carr, Jeff Petry, Bryan Flynn, and Nathan Beaulieu have absolutely reduced this team to a Stanley Cup contender to a Stanley Cup pretender. Now add to that list: David Desharnais. Desharnais took a shot off the foot in the team’s 6-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, and will be out for at least three weeks.
While the Canadiens have fallen from the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers are battling (successfully, mind you) to be a part of that. However; to reach that top spot just got a little bit harder, as the team lost one of their top scorers in center Brandon Pirri. Pirri suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury as he went awkwardly into the boards in their 5-0 loss against the Nashville Predators. At the time of this publishing, it is unknown how long he will be out or when he will return.
Staying in the state of Florida, the Tampa Bay Lightening have taken upon themselves, more specifically, general manager Steve Yzerman. Yzerman has taken it upon himself to squash rumors of a possible trade by stating the following: “As February 29th approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL’s trade deadline. I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs. I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations.”
As the Lightening have squashed rumors regarding Steven Stamkos, his boyhood team, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the news this week regarding their own all-star center in Leo Komarov. Leo Komarov has been suspended for three games for elbowing the New York Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh in the head in the Leafs 4-2 loss on Thursday. Komarov said regarding his hit: “I’m not trying to hurt people, I’m just hitting . . . sometimes it goes like it goes.”
Someone who didn’t go for a game recently was the Buffalo Sabres Evander Kane. The erratic left winger channeled his inner Alex Ovechkin this week by oversleeping and missing practice. As a result, the Buffalo Sabres suspended Kane for one game. Kane had attended the NBA all-star game on Sunday in Toronto, and missed practice on Monday. Kane stated that he takes full responsibility for his actions and has vowed it will not happen again. “It’s something that should have never happened and it’s something that I can promise you won’t happen again, and it’s something that I’m definitely going to learn from.”
Something that everyone can learn from are the Columbus Blue Jackets. How can everyone learn something from the Metropolitan’s worst team? By connecting their fans to puppies, of course. In this weeks warm and fuzzy news, the Blue Jackets connected with one of their most loyal fans, in nine-year old Maddie Wright. This young lady begged her favorite player, Cam Atkinson to score a goal for her. If he was to score a goal, she was to receive a puppy from her parents. Not only did Atkinson do so, but was able to score three the night this young lady was at the game. Just this week, Cam Atkinson was able to meet his namesake in the form of a black Labrador mix, which was adopted from a local rescue shelter this week. What a nice gesture by the Blue Jackets to connect with their fans.
Western Conference Recap:
Let’s begin with some big news out of Los Angeles. Kings centre Anze Kopitar suffered a lower-body injury against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. He left late in the 1st period and did not return to the game. Kopitar is listed as day-to-day, and this injury could possibly be something he has had for a little while.
Keeping with the Kings, they have lost a little bit of ground in the Pacific Division. Heading into Friday, they only lead the Pacific Division by 2 points (over Anaheim). They only have a 3-point lead on the San Jose Sharks. The Kings have only won 4 out of their last 10 games, and have not had a very good road trip. The good news for them is that they are about to return home, and they will spend the next couple of weeks at the Staples Center.
The Anaheim Ducks, who struggled early out of the gate, have made a strong push in the last couple of weeks. They have won 8 out of their last 10 games, and they are on a 4-game winning streak. Are they back to form after last year’s disappointing Conference Finals loss? Are the Ducks going to make another long run at the Stanley Cup? The Ducks should be a buyer at the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline. Expect them to seek another scoring forward via trade.
There was a coaching change in Minnesota earlier this week. The Wild fired Head Coach Mike Yeo last Saturday, and he was replaced by Iowa Wild Head Coach John Torchetti. Torchetti still only has the interim label by his name. Since Yeo’s departure, the Wild have gone 3-0 and they swept Western Canada. The next time the Wild will be in action will be on Sunday afternoon as the Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks outdoors. TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota will be the site for the NHL Stadium Series game between the Blackhawks and Wild. Will the Wild keep their winning streak alive as they square off with the defending Stanley Cup Champions?
It was an incredible scene on Thursday night in Tampa as the Winnipeg Jets squared off against the Lightning. Jets forward Bryan Little left the game in the second period after he received a check to the head from Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman. Stralman was not penalized for the hit, but received a minor penalty for roughing after Blake Wheeler responded coming to the aid of Little. An irate Paul Maurice was then given a game misconduct from referees Dan O’Rourke and Francois St. Laurent. It is very rare to see head coaches ejected from games, but Maurice had every right to be hot at the referees. The hit on Little was late, and probably should have resulted in some sort of call.
The St. Louis Blues have received a big boost since the return of forward Jaden Schwartz. Since Schwartz’s return from a 4-month long injury, he has scored 3 goals in 4 games, including the game-winner in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. Schwartz is a 2010 1st round pick of the Blues. The 23-year old has become a regular linemate with Vladimir Tarasenko.
Andrea Sobolik – Eastern Conference
George Foussekis – Western Conference