A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Canes-Isles tonight

Tonight, the Islanders come to town for the traditional New Year's Eve home game. I've been a season ticket holder mini-plan holder since the 2002-03 season, and this will be the first time out of five that I'm not going. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do on NYE.

Actually, this year, I'll be working. Meh.

Last night, I watched "Relive the Magic:Carolina Hurricanes" on the NHL Network. Rod Brind'Amour, Cam Ward and Mac McCaughan watched "the game" (game 7 of the 2006 SCF) together and commented on the thoughts and feelings they had. You know who Brind'Amour and Ward are. McCaughan is the frontman for two Chapel Hill indie rock bands. Superchunk and Portastatic. Even if you don't know these bands (and you should), If you've ever been to a show at the Cat's Cradle, you've seen Mac. He's always there. The program was really cool, just to see the reactions from the guys as they watched the game.

Game time tonight is 8:00.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hurricanes beat Bs, lose Hedican

On Friday night, the Hurricanes held off the visiting Bruins with a 4-3 victory. They also got some injured forwards back in action. Unfortunately, they saw another key player suffer an injury when Bret Hedican's right knee buckled after a routine check.
Just when I thought the Canes would have to recall some more forwards from Albany, they got Chad "Sharpie" LaRose back from his concussion, they got Craig Adams back from his two game suspension and they were fortunate that Andrew Ladd didn't have to miss any action. He was fitted with a collegiate-style full cage to protect his face after he suffered a fractured zygoma. In the wake of that, instead of calling up another skater from Albany, the Canes reassigned Brandon Nolan.

Carolina got even strength goals from Rod Brind'Amour and Mike Commodore. They got a power play goal from Eric Staal and they got their second shorthanded goal in as many games after Sharpie was awarded a penalty shot in the second period.

In the first period, the Bruins had a shorthanded goal of their own when Chuck Kobasew beat Cam Ward. Kobasew is former Flames property, and played with the Lowell Lock Monsters alongside some of the current Hurricanes.

Carolina suffered yet another injury. Bret Hedican fell awkwardly and his right knee folded under him after a routine collision. He was in a good deal of pain, but left the ice without a whole lot of help. Unfortunately, he'll be out for a couple of weeks. Carolina has recalled defenseman Wade Brookbank from Albany. Brookbank played well in the preseason, but is a career AHLer with just a few dozen NHL games played in his 10 year hockey career. He's a big dude, which will help Carolina quite a bit, but he might not see a ton of ice time. Dennis Seidenberg has been playing great hockey alongside Hedican, so he'll have to adjust to having a new partner, whoever it is.

Carolina plays at Columbus tonight.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Canes injury woes continue

Carolina was already pretty banged up when they went to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. When they left, they were a lot worse for the wear. Of course they lost the game, but they lost more than that. Matt Cullen and Andrew Ladd may miss games due to injuries sustained in the game.

  • Justin Williams was already out with a bad knee. Both the MCL and the ACL are shot. He's done for the season. We already knew that.
  • Chad LaRose is concussed. He skated in practice today for the first time in over a week, but wore the yellow "no contact" sweater. He won't be back in time for the Boston game.
  • Craig Adams has finished his two game suspension
  • Matt Cullen suffered a broken nose. He may or may not be concussed. The lack of news in this department doesn't fall into the "no gnus is good gnus" department. (anybody old enough to remember that?)
    Seriously, I assume that Cullen took a baseline test this morning. If he had passed the test, I think we would have heard by now. I read somewhere on a Rangers site that TSN.ca is reporting that he is NOT concussed, but I haven't been able to find any such article. No news is bad news.
  • Andrew Ladd may or may not have a broken orbital bone after he got clobbered by Sean Avery. I can't find any mention of this other than in blog comment sections, so I'll reserve that with a grain or two of salt.
    This suggests that Colin Campbell isn't interested in Orr (not surprised) or Avery. Avery's transgression, however, is bunched in with those that carry a mandatory one game suspension. Nothing further will be levied on him. Meh.

  • Williams and LaRose are definitely out. Cullen is probably out. If Ladd indeed has a broken orbital bone, he'll be out for a while. Two top six guys and two third line guys. When Williams went down, the rallying cry was "Time for Ladd to step up. Time for LaRose to play an increased role." Now they're both out. It's a fantastic opportunity for Brandon Nolan to stay on the team and prove his worth. We should expect to see Ryan Bayda get the call-up from Albany. Maybe Keith Aucoin too.

    Whether it's freak accident (Williams) or the result of marginal play, other teams are definitely taking liberties with Carolina. What makes it worse is that they know they can. Carolina is going through a horrible power play slump, so other teams can rough us up at will with confidence that Carolina won't score on the power play. They also know that Carolina isn't going to send anyone out to "clean matters up". It's a well-known fact that they have a "no fighting" rule, and even if they wanted to fight, Brandon Nolan is the only one who could even remotely strike fear in anyone's heart. This isn't the "new NHL" anymore, where skilled players are protected by the rules. Luke Decock said it best today:
    Like it or not, the NHL is once again relying on frontier justice. And the Hurricanes look like the Quakers in the wagon train.

    To remedy that, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford is indicating that he's shopping around for an enforcer. The holiday roster freeze will thaw out at midnight tonight, and Carolina will look for free agents who might fall under the umbrella of "enforcer with skill". Good luck with that. Rachel Carter of the N&O has the story on that, which can be summed up with JR's quote:
    “So, we continue to look at things. I think the one area, and we've talked about this the first half of the season, but it becomes more obvious now — is maybe an enforcer.
    It seems like every week one of our guys is getting hit pretty hard and getting hurt, so we may try to look a little harder at that....
    There's been guys come available that are tough guys, but probably not at the level we're looking for, so we're still going to look for one of those top guys.”

    This will have to come on the free agency market. Carolina doesn't have any healthy players to use for trade bait.

    The Canes will be home on Friday against the Bruins. I can only count ten healthy forwards. Brind'Amour, Whitney, Cole, Staal, Stillman, Hamilton, Walker, Adams, Nolan, Letowski. There are seven healthy defensemen, but that leaves them one player shy of a full roster.
    Someone has to get called up.
    At midnight.

    Don't expect the "enforcer" move to come on Friday, but definitely expect Ryan Bayda to be wearing #18 against the Bs.

    There is continued rumbling about making a move for a puck-moving defenseman. That will have to come via trade, which means we have to wait for people to get healthy.
    Any ideas?

    Wednesday, December 26, 2007

    canes lose big; avery is a punk

    Sean Avery is a goddamn punk.
    There. I said it.

    The Rangers defeated the Hurricanes 4-2 on Wednesday night, and showed their ass doing it.

    The home team did a marvelous job of shutting down the Carolina power play, which has been stagnant lately. They had to kill a full five minute penalty in the second, plus a minute of six-on-three in the final minute of the game. The Rangers PK should get the first star of the game.

    Carolina started the game with only 11 forwards and ended the game with only nine. Their power play struggles notwithstanding, this is no way to win hockey games.

    Midway through the second period with the score tied at one, Matt Cullen was blasted at center ice by Colton Orr with a marginally late but very violent open ice hit. The puck was still in the vicinity, but Orr had to come from lower Manhattan to deliver the hit. Cullen was knocked out of the game, requiring stitches below his nose. Orr was given a five minute major for interference (a new rule) and a game misconduct. Mike Commodore jumped to Cullen's defense, but the fight was short and uneventful. On the ensuing major power play, Carolina was unable to get anything going, and it was probably the turning point of the game.

    Carolina would later take a 2-1 lead on a different power play, but at that point they were down to ten forwards and they weren't looking all that great.

    The Rangers exploded for three goals in the first half of the third period, but it wasn't quite out of reach.

    With just under six minutes to play, Sean Avery delivered a hard forechecking hit to Glen Wesley into the boards behind Cam Ward. There was a bit of a disturbance first between Avery and Wesley. Then there was a lot of pushing and shoving by all players on both teams. For no reason, Sean Avery went after Trevor Letowski, but nothing came of that. It seemed like cooler heads were prevailing, but Avery chose to also go at Andrew Ladd. This was a mutual thing, except the linesman weren't going to allow it. The whistles were blowing, the linesmen were restraining both players. It should have been over.
    Avery took at least two, probably three sucker punch shots at Ladd with the linesman between them. Ladd never threw a punch. Somehow, Ladd was given a game 10 minute misconduct penalty to match that of Avery. And Carolina was down to nine skaters. It should have surely been a five minute advantage for Carolina, but the only extra penalty was to Avery for instigating one of those goofy interference penalties -- preventing Glen Wesley from picking up the stick he had dropped. Avery was given a game misconduct penalty on top of it all, but those don't affect the length of the power play.
    It was of no matter since Carolina couldn't convert the power play anyway, but it might have been different with more time.

    Jaromir Jagr had two goals.

    Scott Walker scored a shorthanded goal for the Canes. It was their first shorty of the year.

    Sean Avery will be a marked man the next time these two teams play. A clean fight is one thing. A marginally clean hit is one thing. Sucker punches are another thing entirely. This will be looked at by the league, and he will receive a short suspension.

    I'm too tired and too pissed off to search around for precedence on this kind of thing. One side of me thinks that because he threw punches after the linesmen had stepped in, it'll be multiple games. The realist in me says that it'll be one game.

    Orr won't and shouldn't be suspended. Unless he already had a game misconduct in hand.

    Above the animosity I'm feeling towards Avery, I'm really concerned about Cully. If he has to miss any time, it'll be a huge blow to this already hurting team.

    I've said before that Avery is a guy with a lot of brawn and a bit of talent to go with it. It's a shame that he plays the way he does, agitating and instigating and traipsing around the borders of legal play.

    Carolina is off Thursday, and hopefully there will be good news about Matt Cullen.

    Monday, December 24, 2007

    Concussions in the NHL

    Randy Starkman of the The Toronto Star has written a terrific two-part piece on concussions in the NHL. It was brought to my attention via James Mirtle's blog, and I highly recommend that everybody read it.

    Part One -- Critical Condition: The human toll of hockey concussions
    Part Two -- Players Put Team Over Health

    Concussions can lead to longer-term health problems, must notably a proclivity for Alzheimer's disease.
    "A University of North Carolina study reported in 2005 that retired NFL players faced a 37 per cent higher risk of Alzheimer's than similarly aged U.S. males. It also found repeated concussions significantly raised the chance they'd suffer dementias such as mild cognitive impairment later in life."
    "A neuropathologist who examined former NFL safety Andre Waters' brain after his suicide a year ago said the 44-year-old's brain tissue was that of an 85-year-old man and showed signs of early stage Alzheimer's. Asked once how many concussions he'd had, Waters replied: "I think I lost count at 15."

    This is some startling stuff.

    One of the symptoms of Alzheimer's and other such dementias is outbursts of violence, even if the patient has no history of violence in their healthy years. Part one of that series by the Star details a horrifying turn of events in the life of former Capitals enforcer Kevin "Killer" Kaminski. The article is a MUST READ.
    Kaminski was sidelined with a concussion and...
    Megan Kaminski had stopped asking her husband to help with the kids. He'd always been a great partner and incredibly devoted to his little girls, but now he couldn't stand to be around them.

    "He'd be mad, he would swear," she said. "It was like living with a complete stranger. He was totally a different person. I couldn't talk to him or rationalize with him. The girls didn't understand anything that was going on with him. It was, `Where's Daddy?'"

    But one night she had a deadline to meet for some writing and asked Kevin to get the girls out of the bath and into their pyjamas. She soon found Lexi crying at her office door.

    "She said, `Daddy's really mad and he's scaring me.' I was bending down in front of her and the bedroom door opened from our master bedroom and he came flying down the hallway and he picked her up by one hand and he cocked his fist back."
    Somehow Megan got her daughter out of harm's way and push the feared enforcer into the walk-in closet in their bedroom.

    "We just had this huge screaming match in the closet and then finally he just started crying," she said. "He said, `I can't live like this anymore. I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't who I am.'

    "We just sat in that closet and cried. We could hear our daughters standing outside the closet – they were 2 and 4 at the time. They were standing out there, hugging each other, bawling."

    Megan called the team's sports psychologist and he came to the Kaminski home immediately. He spent a long time talking with the Kaminskis, explaining to Kevin that he had to stop trying to come back. He told him that if we wanted to know his kids when he got older, he had to stop playing hockey now."

    If you look outside hockey, you don't have to look far to see some really horrible things that have happened to former athletes because of concussions.
    Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (aka "Boxer's dementia" aka "punch-drunk syndrome") is a form of dementia, specific to people who have suffered multiple blows to the head.

  • On June 25, 2007, professional wrestler Chris Benoit killed his family, then himself in what was initially deemed a bout of "roid rage". Later, it was ruled to be a result of severe brain damage due to concussions. ABC News reported that
    "The tests, conducted by Julian Bailes of the Sports Legacy Institute, show that Benoit's brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient.

    Bailes and his research team say that this damage was the result of a lifetime of chronic concussions and head trauma suffered while Benoit was in the wrestling ring."
  • Andre Waters, formerly a standout safety for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, committed suicide on November 20, 2006. He was posthumously diagnosed with CTE. The neurologists found the exact same thing that was found in Benoit's case.
    The neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu of the University of Pittsburgh, a leading expert in forensic pathology, determined that Mr. Waters’s brain tissue had degenerated into that of an 85-year-old man with similar characteristics as those of early-stage Alzheimer’s victims. Dr. Omalu said he believed that the damage was either caused or drastically expedited by successive concussions Mr. Waters, 44, had sustained playing football.
  • On September 30, 2004, former Pittsburgh Steelers limeman Justin Strzelczyk led New York State troopers on a high speed chase on the interstate highway. He flung beer bottles and wads of cash from his window of his pickup truck as he erratically sped down the wrong way of the interstate, putting hundreds of people in danger's way. (I was actually on that highway in that area that day). Ultimately, a truck driver sacrificed his rig, making a huge "stop stick" out of it. Strzelczyk hit the truck and died instantly. He had been suffering from depression, and as posthumous tests proved, CTE.
    Strzelczyk (pronounced STRELL-zick) is the fourth former National Football League player to have been found post-mortem to have had a condition similar to that generally found only in boxers with dementia or people in their 80s....“This is irreversible brain damage,” Omalu said. “It’s most likely caused by concussions sustained on the football field.”

    Dr. Ronald Hamilton of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Kenneth Fallon of West Virginia University confirmed Omalu’s findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition evidenced by neurofibrillary tangles in the brain’s cortex, which can cause memory loss, depression and eventually Alzheimer’s disease-like dementia. “This is extremely abnormal in a 36-year-old,” Hamilton said. “If I didn’t know anything about this case and I looked at the slides, I would have asked, ‘Was this patient a boxer?’ ”

  • In short, repeated concussions have turned the brains of these men in their thirties or forties into mush. Instead of having healthy brains, their brains resemble the brains of men twice their age with dementia.
    Because of concussions.

    Despite the evidence that concussions lead to far worse things down the road, both the NFL and the NHL downplay the medical findings and the reporting of concussions. Colin Campbell has said
    "Some are legitimate. I think some you might find aren't legitimate. ... I think there's a small percentage, not a great percentage, of players who use it as an excuse, `Oh yeah, I've got a concussion.' They can milk it. It's a hard thing to really say that you haven't, you know, if you're trying to get some extra insurance money out of it to get paid an extra year or something.... "

    And more alarmingly, you have players who knowingly put themselves back out on the ice when they shouldn't. As part two of that story accentuates, players and coaches will often weigh the importance of the game versus the health of the player. In a preseason or early season game, a player will leave with a head injury, but late in the season, or in the playoffs, they'll look the other way.

    In game five of the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs, Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward was hit in the head "so hard that he didn't know who he was". He left the ice to vomit several times, then came back despite not knowing who he was or where he was. He knew that if he left the game and reported a head injury, he would have to take a baseline test and that he would fail, be diagnosed with a concussion and miss the rest of the series. Carolina missed their chance to win it that night, and needed games six and seven to make it happen. This is an example of the player thinking that the game and the team was far too important for him to sit out. In my opinion, this is lunacy.

    Saturday, December 22, 2007

    Canes top Bolts 4-1

    Going into Saturday night's game at Tampa, the Hurricanes held a narrow three point lead in the Southeast Division over Florida. After having lost the game and 30-point scorer Justin Williams on Thursday, the Canes were a little beat up physically and emotionally. They bounced back nicely with a beautiful 4-1 win over Tampa, while Florida lost in overtime to the Leafs. Going into the holiday, Carolina has a four point lead.

    The game got off to a quick start on the wrong foot. Martin St. Louis made a shot from below the right circle which Cam Ward blockered aside. Unfortunately, it caromed off defenseman Glen Wesley and into the net. This came just 0:23 into the game. St. Louis' 13th goal of the season was assisted by Brad Richards and Shane O'Brien.

    A few moments later, Wesley had a chance to redeem himself with a rebound chance into an empty net, but he had to lift the shot to get over a defenseman's stick, and his attempt clanged off the right post.

    Andrew Ladd, who has really stepped up his game since returning from his "conditioning stint", scored his second goal in as many games to level the score at one. He outworked to Bolts skaters behind Karri Ramo's net, then worked the puck around to Matt Cullen on the right side. His shot was blocked by Ramo, but Ladd was there on the doorstep to pounce on the rebound and shove it in the net. Time of the goal was 18:04 of the first. Initially, the lone assist went to Matt Cullen. During the first intermission, there was a scoring change, giving a secondary assist to Brandon Nolan.

    Nolan looked comfortable and confident out there, and just missed on a golden scoring opportunity in the second frame. I give him high marks for tallying an assist in his first NHL game, ending with a +1.

    There were no penalties for either team in the first.

    In a span of two and a half minutes in the second period, four penalties were called. Two per side. Tampa had one minute of five-on-three, which was killed off nicely by the Canes. At the tail end of the ensuing power play, a Bolts penalty nullified the man advantage. Carolina couldn't do anything on their end of the power play.

    With about a minute left in the second, the Bolts thought they had taken the lead on a Mathieu Darche goal. After some review, the goal was disallowed because it went in off a skate after a distinct kicking motion propelled it in.

    The second period ended 1-1. Both goaltenders were seeing plenty of action, and both were playing well.

    Ray Whitney gave the Canes the lead at 9:31 of the third with a delayed penalty in hand. Whitney came off the bench to be the sixth attacker, accepted a gorgeous pass in the left circle and wristed it high on the Finnish rookie. Cory Stillman and Frantisek Kaberle assisted on what would prove to be the game-winning goal.

    The Wizard notched his second goal of the night and his 18th of the season at 19:00 of the third with an empty net. Scott Walker made a steal at center ice and chucked it ahead to Whitney for the easy goal.

    Remembering what they were able to do on Tuesday against the Leafs, the Canes knew that the game was far from over. They had to fight to the final bell.

    The Bolts were able to get some chances, but nothing serious. In the closing seconds, Ray Whitney had an opportunity for the natural hat trick. He had the puck at the right point, but instead of trying the shot from there, he passed it ahead to Eric Staal for the sure thing, which he tucked in at 19:56. Whitney and Bret Hedican got the assists.

    Carolina played very well as a team. Their forechecking was good, their backpressure was excellent, the third line did a spectacular job. Cam Ward knocked the rust off and had a spectacular game after watching Johnny Crackers get three consecutive starts.

    The "official" three stars went to the midgetMarty St. Louis (third), Cam Ward (second) and Ray Whitney (first). The FSN South crew gave the third star to Karri Ramo. I see it a little differently. Certainly, Karri Ramo was good, with 33 saves. St. Louis was good, with his freak goal. Brandon Nolan played a very good game, albeit just 7:57 ice time, getting an assist in his NHL debut. They all deserve special mention.
    The RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Andrew Ladd, CAR -- 1 goal, 8 hits
    SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR -- 29 saves, win
    FIRST STAR Ray Whitney, CAR -- 2 goals, 1 assist, GWG

    Carolina will be off until Boxing Day, when they'll play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Marc Staal will probably catch a ride on the Hurricanes charter, because he and the rest of the Staal family are spending Christmas at Eric's house in Cary.

    Getting it right

    Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how Brandon Nolan was making his NHL debut with the Hurricanes tonight. I linked to a Newsday article, which I apparently misread.
    My misreading caused me to think that Ted Nolan was going to skip the Islanders game against the Capitals in order to be there on his son's big night. This isn't true. He was quoted as saying that his wife and other son are going. He never said he was going. I got that wrong.

    Lots of people have been coming here because of that post that I wrote. I apologize for any confusion it may have caused.

    I will now sit in the box for two minutes, all by myself, feeling shame.

    Welcome Brandon Nolan

    Due to the rash of injuries to the Hurricanes, Brandon Nolan has been called up from the Alabany River Rats. Nolan is currently tied for first on the River Rats with 11 goals and is second on the team with 22 points.

    Nolan will be playing right wing on the third line, with Matt Cullen and Andrew Ladd. Once again, the Canes will be rolling with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Cam Ward will get the nod between the pipes.

    Nolan wears #12 for the River Rats, but will be wearing #36 for the Hurricanes.
    In the past, he has usually worn the number 23, which is available here, but all indications are that he'll wear Jesse Boulerice's old number.

    Nolan, as you may remember, was the center of some controversy over the summer when Canadian border officials detained him and denied him entry to Canada after he had been visiting his dad in Long Island. Brandon is a Canadian citizen and a First Nationer who had crossed the border hundreds of times without incident. This time, he was told to "go back to the US" and was repeatedly targeted with racist remarks. After about two hours, he was finally allowed to cross. I don't know what ever became of that, but I certainly hope those border officials were suspended or fired.

    Here's the only Brandon Nolan video I could find. It's from a line brawl between the Philadelphia Phantoms
    and the River Rats. Nolan is the "shirtless" player.

    Friday, December 21, 2007

    Big day for Nolan Family

    EDITI apologize for bad reporting. I misread the article in Newsday and I initially wrote that Ted Nolan would skip Saturday's game against the Capitals in order to watch Brandon Nolan's NHL debut. He'll be behind the Isles bench, but the rest of the family will be in Tampa.

    On Saturday, the Islanders will be hosting the Capitals. Their coach, Ted Nolan, won't be there. Instead, he'll be While Ted Nolan is behind the Isles bench, the rest of the family will be in Tampa, rooting for his son Brandon, who will be making his NHL debut with the Hurricanes.
    Chad LaRose has been placed on the IR with a concussion and Justin Williams will be out for at least four months with reconstructive knee surgery. This paved the way for the 24-year old Nolan to make his NHL debut.

    He will be the second son of an NHL coach to make his NHL debut this season. Earlier this season, Brady Murray (son of St. Louis coach Andy Murray) made his debut with the Kings.

    At some point in the not too distant future, another son of an NHL coach will make his debut wearing a Hurricanes sweater. Probably sometime in the 2008-09 season, Brandon Sutter, son of Devils coach Brent Sutter, will play his first game in the NHL. At that point, Carolina will have the unusual distinction of having two sons of NHL coaches on their team.

    Ted Nolan told Newsday:
    "Now you have a sense of what fathers feel like when their sons play for the first time in the National Hockey League. Fathers are very proud, and I'm no different. My wife [Sandra] and younger son will be flying down to Tampa to watch him play tomorrow night, and we'll all get together for a Christmas celebration."
    full story

    Ted Nolan is a good man. Putting his son before himself.

    One interesting tidbit from that article: Brandon isn't afraid to drop the gloves, and not that it's something the Canes are looking for, but he has a bit of a boxing pedigree:
    Brandon Nolan is a tough player, who has been known to get into a few scraps. Recently, he got into a fight with Islanders prospect Jeremy Colliton in an AHL game. Nolan said he doesn’t encourage his son to fight, but he knows his son is prepared when the time comes to drop the gloves.

    “We’re from a boxing family,” Nolan said. “Brandon has had boxing lessons at home all his life. My brother was a pro boxer, and my two cousins were pro boxers. Fisticuffs is something we don’t shy away from, but you don’t want them to fight more so than [play hockey].”

    Worst-case scenario for Williams; Nolan called up.

    Justin Williams' injury on Thursday night turned into a worst-case scenario on Friday after doctors examined him. He has re-torn the ACL in his left knee. Reparative surgery is scheduled for next week, and he is expected to be out for four to six months. Basically, the only way he will return to the Carolina Hurricanes lineup is if they make a very deep run in the playoffs. (Think Erik Cole, 2006)

    In other news, Chad LaRose has been placed on the injured reserve due to a concussion. It seems that I have gotten my wish and Brandon Nolan (son of Islanders coach Ted Nolan) has been called up from Albany to take LaRose's place. No word on how Williams' void will be filled.

    Although Williams has been in a monumental slump (no goals and only 5 points in the last 12 games), he is a key piece in the Hurricanes' scheme. He will be missed a lot.

    Nolan wears number 12 with the River Rats and will probably wear number 21 with the Canes. We'll find out for sure tomorrow in Tampa.

    Hurricanes lose game, Williiams

    Carolina went to the swamps on Thursday to play one of those "four point games" against second place Florida. With a chance to expand their lead to seven points, the Hurricanes fell short. Instead, they blew an early two goal lead and left with a 5-4 loss. Instead of a seven point standings lead, they now have a narrow three point lead. Added to that, they lost Justin "Viva" Williams to a knee injury.

    Carolina entered the game in kind of rough shape. They only had 11 forwards available. Craig Adams is suspended and Chad LaRose is concussed. Williams, who has been in a terrible slump, might be out of the lineup for a long time. Late in the first period, he suffered an injury to his left knee which left him writhing in pain on the ice for several minutes. This is the same knee that he injured in the 2002-03 season while still with the Flyers. He missed 36 games with a torn ACL.

    I hate to speculate, but it didn't look good at all, and Luke Decock from the N&O wrote the following:
    Tangled with Richard Zednik in front of the Florida net, Williams’ legs flew out from under him and Rostislav Olesz slammed into Williams’ extended left leg.

    “Not good,” Williams said as he limped out of the building.

    Williams missed 36 games with a torn ACL in that knee in 2002-03, so he has a frame of reference for knee injuries. He needed assistance on both sides to get off the ice. I suspect Williams won’t be as lucky as Stillman.

    “He’s got to see a doctor, but obviously he couldn’t come back tonight,” Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. “The preliminary (report) is that it’s his knee. It doesn’t look good. …

    “Even if it is something that is going to be longer, I don’t think there’s anything you can do for it immediately. The swelling is going to have to settle down.”

    full story

    I'm not excited about this. Down to 10 available forwards, Carolina will have no choice but to make a call-up to the depleted River Rats. I wrote the other day that they had 13 guys out of the lineup with injury or flu. THIRTEEN! They made emergency callups to the ECHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
    Ryan Bayda would be the logical first choice for a call-up, but he is out with a concussion. I guess that means we'll see Keith Aucoin again. I still wouldn't mind getting a look at Brandon Nolan or Jerome Samson, but I suppose we'll have to wait a while before we see them.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see both Aucoin and Dave Gove called up.

    Carolina will be in Tampa on Saturday, then will be off until Boxing Day, when they face the Rangers at MSG.

    Godspeed, Justin!

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Brind'Amour, Ladd, Commodore return to the ice

    On Thursday night, the Hurricanes will return to Southeast Division play, and three of their players will make their return to the ice. Rod Brind'Amour missed one game with the flu, Mike Commodore missed 12 with a broken finger and Andrew Ladd missed four with a reassignment and a bout with the flu. With Chad LaRose and David Tanabe out with concussions and Craig Adams suspended, they will be needed.

    The N&O reports that the Canes will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen tonight, which is a pretty common occurrence under Peter Laviolette. He's keeping mum on who the starting goaltender will be, but Johnny Crackers looked fantastic against the Leafs and got the job done against Philly, earning two wins in a row. I'm given to saying things like "You shouldn't change your horses midstream" and "Ride a goalie while he's hot". I wouldn't be surprised to see him in nets tonight. Given his struggles against his former team, however, I'd bet my paycheck that we'll see Cam Ward against the Bolts on Saturday.

    The Hurricanes have won three of the four meetings between the teams so far this season. All have been good games.

    Carolina's main focus will be on Olli "Cane Killa" Jokinen. He has enjoyed a ton of success against the Canes over the years and has tallied six (1/5) points against the Canes in four games this season. If this guy played for my team, I would love him. But he doesn't, and I don't.

    Cory Stillman (3/2) Rod Brind'Amour (2/3)and Matt Cullen (1/4) each have five points versus the Kitties this year. Justin Williams (2/2) and Ray Whitney (1/3) each have four.

    Puck drop will be at 7:30.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Simon gets record setting suspension

    On Monday, the Islanders did what I expected them to do. They asked Chris Simon to step away from the team. They placed him on a "paid leave" and suggested that he get counseling and other things before returning to the team. They stressed that he was still part of the team and that he would be able to rejoin them when he got himself straightened out. They did this before the league made its ruling on the punishment to fit his heinous crime. Perhaps they wanted the league to go easy on him since they were handling things "in house". The league did not go easy on him.

    Most NHL disciplinary cases are dealt with via conference call. This one was dealt with in person on Tuesday. The meeting is said to have lasted 30 minutes, and instead of immediately deciding upon a suspension, Colin Campbell et al decided to sleep on it. The ruling came in on Wednesday: 30 games. He will forfeit $292,683 in salary and will be eligible for reinstatement in February. This is the longest suspension in the history of the NHL, longer by five games than the suspension he finished earlier this season. Longer by five than Jesse Boulerice's crosscheck to the face of Ryan Kesler. Longer by seven than the one given to Marty McSorley.

    Simon has tallied just three (1/2) points in 26 games played this season. He missed the first five while finishing his 25-game suspension and will now miss the next 30.

    Campbell said, in part:
    "...while the act itself was extremely dangerous, the fact that this is the eighth incident requiring the imposition of supplementary discipline on Simon compelled me to impose a very severe penalty in this case.

    When a player repeatedly evidences the lack of ability to control his actions and conducts himself in total disregard of the rules, as well the health and safety of other players on the ice, each subsequent incident is deserving of enhanced scrutiny and more severe discipline. This response serves not only the purpose of imposing appropriate punishment for the player involved, but also the purpose of deterring the player and all other players from engaging in similar conduct in the future - hopefully creating a safer long-term work environment for all NHL players."

    Simon is expected to appeal the suspension, but I don't suppose it will be to any avail.

    CrAdams banned for two games; Larose and Tanabe concussed; Albany has the flu

    The Carolina Hurricanes have been called a lot of things by a lot of people. "Dirty" has never been one of them. Prior to this season, the last time a Hurricanes player was handed an NHL suspension was in the 2002 playoffs. Suddenly, in the last four games, two Hurricanes have been suspended.

    Scott Walker was given a one game suspension for headbutting the Senators' Mike Fisher.

    Against the Leafs last night, Craig Adams was penalized for high-sticking Alex Steen late in the third period before the Leafs' monumental collapse. As I watched the game, I wondered why the call was "high sticking" rather than "cross checking". It was a high hit, and it was to the head. The league is doing its part to make sure hits to the head are kept to a minimum. Today, the league handed Craiggers a two game suspension.
    However, Luke Decock wants to know (and so do I) why that player was singled out. In the first period of that game, Nik Antropov clipped Erik Cole in the face, opening a cut. No penalty. Occasionally, the refs miss stuff, but even the Leafs announcers wondered where the call was.

    In the third, Alex Ponikarovsky (who would later become the goat) checked Chad "Sharpie" LaRose from behind into the end wall, giving him a concussion. No penalty there either, but the ref was right on top of it and let it go.

    At some point in the first period, "Avi" Tanabe suffered a concussion, but nobody knows how or when. I assume he concussed himself when he considered actually hitting someone.

    Both Tanabe and LaRose failed baseline tests and did not travel with the team. This is not good news. The Albany River Rats have the flu. Got that? The whole team. Has the flu. They won't be of any help. Just yesterday, they themselves called up seven players from the ECHL Elmira (NY) Jackals. The Jackals are somehow affiliated with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but ECHL affiliations are loose at best.
    The River Rats can ill afford to be without any of their players -- they already have THIRTEEN players out with flu or injury -- but Carolina will be missing two forwards and possibly will continue to miss Rod Brind'Amour with the flu. No moves yet, but I'm itching to get a look at RW Jerome Samson who has 18 (11/7) points in Albany or LW Brandon Nolan (son of Ted), who has 21 (10/11). Neither have made their NHL debut, but both are playing better than Keith Aucoin and Dave Gove.

    The suspension isn't that much of a surprise, but the news of two concussions was unwelcome. Carolina does not have enough healthy extras to fill those voids. Someone is gonna get a call from somewhere.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007

    Canes snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, beat Leafs 3-2 in overtime

    On Tuesday night, it looked like Vesa Toskala was headed for another shutout victory. In 85 seconds, it all came crashing down. Depending on who you root for, either (a) Carolina snatched victory from the jaws of defeat or (2) Toronto gave the game away, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. No matter how you call it, Carolina won 3-2. They made a very late rally to force overtime, then got the winner with under a minute to play in the extra frame.

    Early in the game, Carolina was buzzing. In the first minute, they had several shots including a quality chance in the first seven seconds. Toskala stood his ground and rebuffed every turn by the Canes.

    In the first period, Carolina had three power plays including about a minute of five-on-three, but they couldn't convert. They lobbed 13 shots at the Finn, but he had a rejoinder for every one of them. It looked like "one of those nights".

    It started to look even more like "one of those nights" when the Leafs scored first at 17:50 of the first. Just seconds after the five-on-three expired, Boyd Devereaux -- who was the second man in the box -- buried the rebound from a Tomas Kaberle shot. Chad Kilger got the secondary helper on the even strength goal.

    The second period, which has been anathema to the Canes, was pretty bad. Carolina could only muster four shots in the middle stanza, could never mount any pressure, and they put themselves in the box a few times. The last of these is what helped give the dreaded Leafs the 2-0 lead. After Darcy Tucker forced Trevor Letowski to cough up the puck deep in the Carolina end, Kaberle tucked it in from just off the left post. The power play goal was unassisted.

    Both teams played full throttle in the third. Toronto had 15 shots to Carolina's 16. Both teams committed two penalties. Neither could convert.

    As the final minutes wound down, it looked like a sure thing shutout win for Toskala. In my mind, I had him as the first star, Kaberle as the second and Boyd Devereaux as the third. All that changed quite drastically.

    Just as Johnny Crackers was about to leave the ice for an extra attacker, Cory Stillman broke the shutout at 18:35, assisted by Frantisek Kaberle and Justin Williams.

    With the goal scored, Peter Laviolette pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 50 seconds left. Shortly thereafter, Alex Ponikarovsky had a chance to shoot at the empty net from the Carolina blue line, but he hesitated too much and Cory Stillman took the puck away. This would be the play of the game. Stillman gets mad credit for taking the puck away, and Ponikarovsky gets the "goat" treatment for not salting it away.

    Ray Whitney found the back of the net at 19:33 to tie the game and send what was left of the crowd into a frenzy. Erik Cole and Justin Williams Cory Stillman assisted.

    The game went to overtime, which hasn't been kind to either squad this season. Late in the bonus frame, Carolina got the benefit of one marginal call and then got another obvious penalty, affording them a rare five-on-three in overtime. The Leafs killed off the front end, and it felt like the game was destined for shootout. Eric Staal, however, had different plans.

    At 4:27 of the overtime, Staal fired a shot from the blue line that found the net. Originally, they gave credit to Scott Walker for a re-direction at the goalmouth. Later, they changed it to Staal, saying that the redirection was off Pavel Kubina's stick. Apparently, they've changed it back to Walker. Scott Walker got the game winning power play goal with the helpers going to Eric Staal and Erik Cole.

    Vesa Toskala was 85 seconds away from his second shutout in the last three games. 85 seconds. Just like *that*, he lost the game and plummeted from the game's first star to an "also ran".

    The "official" three stars went to Ray Whitney (third), Cory Stillman (second) and Scott Walker (first). The Rogers/Sportsnet three stars went to Ray Whitney (third), Hal Gill (second) and Cory Stillman (first) don't really see it that way. The RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Tomas Kaberle, TOR --- 1 goal, 1 assist
    SECOND STAR Erik Cole, CAR --- 2 assists, 4 hits
    FIRST STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 takeaways

    Stillman injured his knee on Saturday, and the initial prognosis was that he would be out until after Christmas. Turned out he didn't miss a single game. If his knee was bothering him, it sure didn't show. His late goal got the team going, then his takeaway from Ponikarovsky was probably the play of the game.

    Who did miss the game, though, were Rod Brind'Amour and Andrew Ladd. Both have the flu.

    For the first time since November 10th and 12th, Carolina has won consecutive games. It feels good. They will put their two game win streak on the line on Thursday in South Florida against the Kitties.

    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    Hurricanes top Flyers in shootout; Stillman to miss a week.

    On Saturday, the Hurricanes went to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, attempting to avoid a season series sweep by the Flyers. Dating back to last season, the Flyers had won four matches in a row. Carolina eked out a 6-5 win with Rod Brind'Amour getting the "winner" in the shootout.

    I was helping a friend load up a moving truck all day long, then went to dinner, so I was only able to watch the first period. I set the dvr to record the rest, but I used the automatic setting rather than manually adding 20 minutes like I usually do. The result was that I didn't get to see the last five minutes of regulation, the overtime period or the shootout. Thank goodness NHL.com does a good job with the highlights.

    At 9:33 of the first, Joffrey Lupul converted a breakaway chance to put the Flyers up 1-0. The unassisted goal was Lupul's tenth of the season.

    Defenseman Nic Wallin converted the rebound of an Erik Cole shot into a goal for the Canes at 13:49. Cole's hard slapper from the right circle bounced out to Wallin in the slot, and he shot it into a wide open net for his first goal of the season.

    At 15:21, it looked like Wallin had made it 2-1 with a wrist shot from the left point. However, closer inspection showed that Scott Walker re-directed the shot from the slot. It was Walker's third goal of the season, and Wallin had the only helper.

    Carolina took a 3-1 lead at 2:17 of the second. It was one of many bizarro goals on the night. The puck was clearly in the net, but the on-ice call was no goal because it was played with a high stick. Initially, the referee was saying that Cullen (the eventual goal scorer) had his stick above the height of the crossbar when he deflected it in. When they reviewed it, they found that the puck caromed off Cullen's body after having bounced off a Flyer's stick. The initial shot by Tim Gleason from the blue line was deflected with a questionably high stick by Craig Adams. Then off a Flyers' stick (which negates the played with a high stick). Then it bounced off of Cullen's torso (or maybe the shaft of his stick). Something about the Philly player made everything else irrelevant. Ultimately, Cullen was given credit for the goal. Gleason and CrAdams had the assists.

    Just when it looked like it might be a runaway, the crazy goals kept coming. And they were coming from both sides.

    Scott Hartnell scored a power play goal at 5:28 to bring the home team within one goal. Johnny Crackers made a good stop on a Hartnell shot from close range, and he was trying to freeze the puck. However, the puck was loose just inches from the goal line with just a tiny gap between Grahame's body and the left post. The referee was in perfect position to see that the puck wasn't frozen, and Hartnell kept whacking at it until he got it to cross the line. Jeff Carter and Braydon Coburn got the assists.

    At 7:32, Lupul scored his second tally of the night on another goal that was initially ruled "no goal". RJ Umberger came in on a breakaway and Crackers made a stop on him. The rebound went out to Lupul in the left circle. By this point, Grahame was out of position, and Carolina defensemen Tim Gleason dove into the net with his left leg on top of the goal line, running parallel with it. Lupul's shot struck Gleason's leg and bounced out. Play continued. At the next stoppage of play, they took a closer look at that play, and Gleason's leg was just a hair over the goal line. When the puck hit his leg, it just barely crossed the goal line to do so. 3-3. The lone assist went to RJ Umberger.

    Eric Staal busted out of his scoring drought at 13:20 of the second. Cole, Ray Whitney and Staal broke into the Flyers zone on an odd-man rush. Cole led the way down the right wing, then dropped a pass to the trailing Staal who one-timed it from the right circle. His 16th goal of the season broke a three game goal drought and was just his second in the last 11 games.

    The second period ended 4-3, but Carolina lost the services of Cory Stillman. He suffered a knee injury and was unable to return. He lay on the ice a while after getting tangled with a Flyers player, then couldn't put any pressure on it as he left the ice. Initial indicators are that he'll miss a week or so.

    Daniel Briere was left all alone in front of the net, and he made the Canes pay with an equalising goal at 0:30 of the third. Scott Hartnell and Braydon Coburn had the assists.

    Trevor Letowski, who has been playing really well lately, restored the Canes lead at 6:17 of the third. After he worked really hard along the goal line against Biron, the puck worked out to the left point, where Bret Hedican fired away. Letowski was there in the left circle to make the tip, and it easily found the back of the net. Letowski's third goal of the year was assisted by Hedican and CrAdams.

    Joffrey Lupul completed the hat trick while the Flyers were enjoying a five-on-three power play. All three Canes skaters and three Flyers were involved in a scrum after a flurry of shots on Grahame. Somehow, amidst all those legs and pads and gloves and sticks, the referee says he never lost sight of it. The Flyers were furiously hacking at Grahame's acoutrements trying to coerce the puck over the line. It worked. Lupul from Mike Knuble and Mike Richards at 11:46 of the third on the power play.

    There was no more scoring in the third or the overtime period, but each team had power play opportunities galore.

    It went to shootout.

    Briere went first and shot his attempt over the net.

    Cullen went first for the Canes and he used a move like Kristian Huselius used the other night on his breakaway goal against the Canes. He beat Biron cleanly.

    Mike Richards went next for the Flyers. He went straight in without any fancy stuff and buried his shot.

    Jeff Hamilton went second for the Canes. Instead of pulling backhand to forehand late, he did it early. His trick this time, though was to swing wide left, then pull back to the right and he easily beat Biron.

    Lupul went next, knowing that he had to score just to stay alive. He went straight in, fired a shot that Grahame handled, but it trickled through him and in the goal.

    Brind'Amour was next for the Canes. A miss meant the shootout would continue. Under a cloud of thundering boos (why?), the former Flyers alternate captain went in and fired a shot right at the glove hand of Biron. The puck popped straight up into the air over Biron's head. He had no idea where it was until it hit him in the back and rolled into the net.

    Carolina won its first shootout since the 2005-06 season.

    The official three stars went to Cole (third), Brind'Amour (second) and Lupul (first). I see it a little different. I'd love to give Crackers some love. He stood tall in a shooting gallery in stages of the second and third periods. He faced a lot of really tough shots and looked good. He gave up five goals, but he looked really good. I know that sound odd, but he did.
    The RBH three stars:

    THIRD STAR Nic Wallin, CAR -- 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 blocked shots (all while having the least ice time of any defensemen)
    SECOND STAR Erik Cole, CAR -- 2 assists, 2 hits
    FIRST STAR Joffrey Lupul, PHI -- 3 goals, shootout "goal"

    The Flyers turn right around and play a 5:00 game at New Jersey. The Hurricanes, who did the same thing last weekend with a 5:00 Sunday game at Detroit following a 7:00 game at Rangers, will have no sympathy for the Flyers.

    The Canes will be back in action with a home game against the Leafs on Tuesday.

    Chris Simon at it again

    On Saturday, Islanders bad guy Chris Simon was given a match penalty for stomping on the leg of Penguins winger Jarkku Ruutu. It's likely that Simon will see a very lengthy suspension after the league reviews the incident.

    The video shows that Simon goes to the bench area, gives Ruutu a slew-foot, knocking him to the ice, then deliberately stomps on the foot/ankle/leg of the prone player.

    Last season, Simon received a 25-game suspension for his baseball-like swing at the head of Rangers' winger Ryan Hollweg. The 25 game ban spanned the remainder of the 2006-07 season, the playoffs and the first five games of this season. In his career, he had five other suspensions totaling 10 games.

    When the Hollweg incident occurred, there was a lot of noise being made by hockey fans looking for a life ban on the Simon. Most people assumed that it would work out that way anyway because Simon became a free agent over the summer. Because of his advanced age, his minimal skill set, his propensity for injuries and his bad reputation, we all assumed that nobody would pick up a contract on him. The Islanders proved us all wrong.

    When Simon was re-signed by the Islanders, I guessed that it was a favor extended to him by coach Ted Nolan, who is a fellow First Nationer. Nolan has been a long-time surrogate father to the troubled Simon.

    This latest transgression is completely undefendable. There will be no "he was just finishing his check". There will be no "Ruutu helped himself into the ice" or "it only looks bad because of the slow motion".

    I think the league needs to really bear down on this and give him another "very long" suspension. 20 games. Ted Nolan, who did Simon a huge favor, should be embarrassed about sticking his neck out and he should be furious with Simon. This is unbecoming of a hockey player, and for all the trouble Nolan has gone to on Simon's behalf, this is unbecoming of a First Nationer. Not that I would know, mind you.

    Simon refused to comment after the game, and Nolan will wait until he has "reviewed the situation" to make comment.

    Saturday, December 15, 2007

    Flames 4 - Canes 3

    On Friday night, Carolina set a new season mark with its third consecutive loss. A tired but red-hot Calgary team came in here one night after beating Tampa 9-6 and they beat the home team 4-3.
    The Flames are four games into a six game road trip and they have taken all eight available points. On the other hand, Carolina has won just two games all month. The road for Carolina gets harder before it gets easier. Tonight they will be in Philadelphia. The Flyers have won all three previous meetings between the two teams.

    Here's how it went down on Friday:
    Kristian Huselius opened the scoring at 4:56 of the first. After a center ice turnover by Trevor Letowski, he made a really nifty shake-n-bake maneuver at the Carolina blue line and had a virtual breakaway on Cam Ward. Wardo was mesmerized by the shaking and baking, and he had no chance to make the save. Daymond Langkow had the only assist.

    Chad LaRose got a fluky goal at 5:53 to bring the Canes back in it. After Letowski forced a Flames giveaway deep in their own zone, Matt Cullen fired a shot well wide right of the net. The rebound off the end wall went right to Sharpie near the inside hash marks of the left circle. He fumbled the puck a bit, then shot a backhander that sort of handcuffed Kiprusoff and beat him short side. Cullen and Letowski had the assists.

    After one, the score remained 1-1. Kristian Huselius was the best player on the ice for either team. He got to use that same shake-n-bake move later in the period, but didn't get a scoring chance out of it. He was pretty active in the Carolina zone for what seemed like the entire period.

    Carolina looked much better through one than they had looked all game on Wednesday. They had lots of zip, they were finishing checks on both ends of the ice and they were getting lots of shots on net. The count at the first intermission was 16-7 in favor of the Canes.

    At 14:09 of the second, the Flames got a hard-earned goal from Dustin Boyd. It was just his second marker of the season. Boyd took a pass near the top of the crease, then made some smooth puck handling, pulling the puck about seven feet from his forehand to his backhand. By then, Cam Ward was diving for the puck, and he just lifted it it. The whole thing was started when Nic Wallin made a lame clearing attempt. Instead of firing it off the glass, or sending it hard up the middle, he sent it softly up the middle. Adrian Aucoin had the only assist.

    At 15:22, Carolina scored another fluky goal. Mikka Kiprusoff looked a shaky and a little confused all night. His rebound control was horrible and he looked a little bit like he was having a hard time locating the puck on a few shots. This time was no different. Matt Cullen started a rush from the Carolina end that resulted in a Craig Adams shot from the top of the right circle. Kiprusoff got a pad on it, but it snuck through his five hole and just barely had enough momentum to cross the goal line. It took place directly in front of me, and it seemed like it was in ultra-slow motion as the puck inched its way through open space. This was CrAdams' first point of the season. Tim Gleason and Matt Cullen got the assists.

    Carolina again had the advantage in shots on goal and the total after two was 27-16.

    Literally seconds after I started to think "Geez, I haven't even noticed Iggy or Phaneuf all night long" I was punished for thinking it. Jarome Iginla fired a slapshot from the top of the right circle that beat Ward cleanly high on the blocker side. Glen Wesley was too busy playing soft defense to deny the shooting lane and the one-time Rocket Richard winner took advantage of the time and space. The power play marker at 0:25 of the second was Iggy's 21st goal of the season. Aucoin and Dion Phaneuf assisted.

    Matt Cullen made a sweet play at 7:19 of the third to once again level the score. Way down in the Carolina end, he pressured Alex Tanguay into a turnover, then raced up ice, passed to Rod Brind'Amour along the wall on the right side and took the return pass at the blue line. He made the Flames defensemen Anders Eriksson and Dion Phaneuf look pretty silly. Eriksson waved at him and Phaneuf did nothing at all as Cullen raced past every Flames player and wristed one over the glove hand of Kiprusoff. Kipper was down and out after guessing that Cullen would go blocker side. The power play marker was Cullen's seventh goal of the season. Brind'Amour got the only assist.

    At 11:48, Dion Phaneuf wristed one in from the top of the left circle after Matthew Lombardi had won the offensive zone faceoff.

    That's how the game ended. It was frustrating to lose, but I wasn't upset. They played hard against a good team and gave a much, much better effort than on Wednesday. However, there continues to be a problem with Eric Staal. He has been a non-factor too many nights. He's been invisible most nights. Erik Cole had a much better game on Friday. He had some chances, he made some things happen. He didn't register a point, but I noticed him. I can't say the same about Staal. He really has to fix his level of intensity.

    Too many nights lately, Carolina's best player has been Dennis Seidenberg or Chad LaRose or (gasp) David Tanabe. This is unacceptable. They need for their best player to be their stars. Night in and night out. Calgary's best players on Friday were simply the best players on their team. Phaneuf, Iginla, Huselius, Langkow all showed up. Tanguay didn't, but when four of your five best players "show up", that's fine. Carolina had just one of their best players show up -- Matt Cullen.

    With a goal and two assists, Matt Cullen was far and away Carolina's best player. In fact, I think he was the best player for either team.

    The "official" three stars are a bit of a head-scratcher for me. They went Kiprusoff (third), Cullen (second) and Phaneuf (first). Kipper made 33 saves and earned the win, but I think he actually had a bad night. His defense bailed him out when he was giving up juicy rebounds. Phaneuf was good, but I don't think he should get the first star just for scoring the game winner. I was excited about getting to see him play, halfway expecting to witness one of his textbook Phaneufs, laying one of our players out. He only had one hit in the game, and it wasn't a Phaneuf.

    Anyway, the RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Dion Phaneuf, CGY -- GWG, 1 assist
    SECOND STAR Kristian Huselius, CGY -- 1 goal
    FIRST STAR Matt Cullen, CAR -- 1 goal, 2 assists, 4 takeaways.

    Carolina will be in the City of Brotherly Love tonight hoping to avoid a series sweep by the Flyers. Scott Walker's suspension is over and he will be back in the lineup. Mike Commodore and his broken finger do not figure to be in the lineup tonight.

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Staal brothers having some fun

    Over on the Nike/Bauer site, they've got some good videos and whatnots on the Staal brothers, including this hilarious one of the four of them demolishing various garden gnomes, tin cans, light bulbs, watermelons and anything else they could round up in their dad's barn.

    It gets better every time I watch it.

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Sens crush Canes 6-0, Walker loses his head

    On Wednesday afternoon, I got a text message from our friend The Sliding Pokecheck. She was under the weather and offered her ticket for the Sens game to me. It all went downhill from there. It ended with the Canes taking a 6-0 beating and Scott Walker awaiting a suspension.

    Ole' Crazy Eye Heatley got the Sens off and running at 1:46 with a shot from the right circle that beat Ward high on the glove side. Jason Spezza and Joe Corvo got the assists. This would turn out to be the game-winning goal.

    Mike Fisher potted his eighth goal of the season at 5:24. It was a little soft, but it counts. Alfredsson and Luke Richardson assisted. He came down the left wing without really controlling the puck, but somehow he regained control of it and tucked it past Cam Ward from close range. Curiously, Ray Emery was lifted after the goal, making way for Martin Gerber. I didn't notice anything, but someone near me said they thought he had aggravated a pre-existing injury.

    The goal of the night came at 19:08 of the first on a very nice individual effort by Spezza. coming down the left wing on an odd-man rush, he made a gorgeous outside-in move to make Tim Gleason and the late-arriving Craig Adams look like little boys. Randy Robitaille and Dany Heatley had the assists.

    The second period got off to a bad start, but the second period as a whole was by far and away the Canes best work. They spent almost the entire period killing penalties, and they did it very well. They did a very good job keeping the Sens at bay and actually had a couple of shorthanded chances.

    It started at 0:51 of the third with a tussle down on the north end of the ice. Scott Walker was called for interfering with the Sens' Swiss keeper. Mike Fisher took him to task, and the two came to blows. At the end of it all, Scott Walker made the unfortunate decision to head-butt Fisher. This got Walker the gate and will probably also get him a one game suspension. The result was a five minute power play for the Sens. Fortunately, the Canes penalty killers showed up enough to pitch a second period shutout.

    Carolina was never able to get any sustained pressure going. They could barely stay on side, and in the third period it almost looked as if they were mailing it in.

    Shean Donovan made it 4-0 at 8:39. Eric Staal was terrible all night long, but on this play, he was just gliding around aimlessly, looking like my paternal grandmother does at the home for Alzheimer's patients. Donovan was in the right place at the right time following a turnover deep in the Canes end and neatly beat Ward with a wrister from the low slot. Dean McAmmond had the only assist.

    Dany Heatley had his second goal of the night on a breakaway at 11:53. Spezza and Gerber with the helpers.

    The scoring was capped by a really bad goal. Dean McAmmond at 16:17. After a long shot from the right point was stopped by Ward, the bouncing puck found its way to the back of the net. Christopher Schubert and Brian McGratton (who has the worst haircut I've seen in a long time) got the helpers.

    There was nothing good about this game. The forwards were awful. The defensemen were awful. Cam was shaky. The Canes couldn't mount any offensive pressure, or make any tape-to-tape passes, or stay on side. Conversely, every time the Sens entered the Canes zone, they had numbers. They had time and space all night long. Carolina never had time or space. Carolina's shots were low-percentage, their passes were more often in each other's skates than on their tape.

    With no intent to discredit the fantastic play by the Sens, the Canes were lousy. They deserved to lose. The way they played, they could have lost to the Miami Dolphins. At the same time, the Sens deserved to win. They clearly wanted to.

    Carolina will have a long day ahead of them tomorrow. Probably no bag skate, but they'll be looking at a lot of film that will be painful for them to watch. They've got a lot of questions to answer. Rod Brind'Amour is going to have to make his teammates come up with the answers. I would imagine there will be more than one "players only" meeting tomorrow, and a lot of language that would make Glen Wesley's sensitive ears bleed.

    The Flames come a' calling on Friday night. I sure hope the Canes are ready.

    When the Scott Walker suspension comes down, I'm guessing the Canes will recall Keith Aucoin to fill that roster spot.

    The "official" three stars went to Martin Gerber (third), Jason Spezza (second) and Dany Heatley (first). Although Emery gets the win, Gerber did most of the work. It's unfortunate for him that he won't get credit for a shutout or even a win. I agree with the three stars, but just not the ordering of them. The RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Jason Spezza, OTT --- 1 goal, 2 assists
    SECOND STAR Martin Gerber, OTT --- 31 saves (including 17 in the third)
    FIRST STAR Dany Heatley, OTT --- 2 goals, one assist, GWG.

    For some bloggerific Sens coverage, check out the very capable Scarlett Ice

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    penguins-flyers goes bad.

    Tuesday's bout between the Penguins and the Flyers got started on the wrong foot, then turned into a very good game, then turned very ugly by the end. Early in the third, a bad officiating call turned the game on its end. We're just lucky that we didn't see something like the line brawl between the Sabres and Senators last season.

    Just :20 into the game, there was a fight between Ryan Malone and Jason Smith. Nothing came out of that, but it was only one of many altercations of the evening.

    Joffrey Lupol scored two quick goals to give the Flyers the lead, but ten minutes later, Pittsburgh answered back with two to tie it.

    There was a little bit of chippiness in the second, but no fights broke out. Just a bunch of roughing penalties against the Penguins. The Flyers scored three markers in the second, but only one was on the power play.

    Three minutes into the third, with a scrum along the boards at center ice, Ben Eager landed a big elbow to the noggin of Georges Laraque. Le Grande Georges didn't like that and immediately took Eager to task for it. I figured there would be (at the very least) an elbowing call against Eeager and matching roughing penalties, leaving the Pens with a power play. Instead, there was no elbowing call. There was a double minor roughing penalty to Le GG and nothing at all to Eager. This was a horrible, horrible call. Gary Roberts made sure that Eager didn't get away scot free by pummeling him in a fight. Only then did Eager get a penalty. During the ensuing four minute power play, Joffrey Lupul completed his hat trick and Braydon Coburn kicked the extra point to make it 7-2.

    For the next several minutes, the two sides were itching to brawl, but the linesmen kept it under control.

    At 13:49, tempers flared again. Multiple players squared off resulting in a couple of ejections.

    At 16:47, Le GG did a very stupid thing that will surely get him suspended. He took a feet-first leap at Martin Biron in an attempt to take him out. Biron was knocked down but not out, and another fight erupted. Again, players were ejected. Under five minutes to go, that's a mandatory ejection and fine.

    A minute later, RJ Umberger scored his third goal of the night, making two hat tricks for the Flyers.

    The Penguins still wouldn't let it go, and Jarkuu Ruutu got himself ejected with about a minute to play.

    This was an ugly, ugly game. George Laraque, who is a talentless piece of crap was completely idiotic there at the end, but all of tonight's bad blood got started with the dirty hit for which Ben Eager was unpenalized.

    Laraque will certainly incur the wrath of Colin Campbell for his act of lunacy. Eager should (but won't) be disciplined for his elbow.

    I expected this to be a good game and I was very disappointed that it turned into a very bad game. I was also disappointed with the officials. Not just the non-call against Eager. Every time the game boiled over and there were multiple penalties, the Flyers ended up with a power play. Out of all that rough stuff, there were 12 penalties levied against the Pens and only six against the Flyers.

    All told, there were 23 penalties against the Pens for 98 PIM. The Flyers had 11 penalties for 58 PIM.

    Philly is now up 3-0 in the Battle of Pennsylvania. They won't meet again until late January. I expect the Flyers won't have forgotten about the dirty play of Le GG. Nor will the Penguins forget how badly they were beaten.

    Sunday, December 09, 2007

    Canes fall in Detroit

    After playing a very solid sixty minutes in Montréal on Saturday night, Carolina had very little time to rest and prepare for the best team in the NHL. Against Detroit on Sunday, they looked good. "Good" wouldn't be enough, though. Detroit won 5-2, which looks like a blowout. It was, however, very much in question until the final moments. Although they were badly outshot, Carolina held in there and they should be happy with the amount of effort.

    Valtteri Filppula started the scoring at 4:35 of the first with a tip-in of a rebound from a Jiri Hudler shot. Nick Lidstrom got the secondary assist. The game was delayed briefly while they reviewed the goal. I think they were looking to see if the whistle had blown, but it was a short review and the goal stood up.

    That was the only scoring of the first, but the shots on goal were 16-4 in favor of the home team. Still, Carolina looked very much in it.

    Before the scant crowd could even get back in their seats for the second period, Erik Cole made it a tie game with a fantastic individual effort. Tim Gleason fired a shot from the right half-wall and Cole was there for the rebound. Hasek answered the bell, but there was another rebound coming. In a matter of just a split second, Cole located the airborne rebound and batted it into the net from about knee level. Time of that goal was 0:46 of the second.

    Johan Franzen, author of the bestselling novel The Corrections scored at 6:02 of the second to restore the one goal lead. Tim Gleason was in the box for delay of game (clearing the puck over the glass), and the Wings were putting on a passing display. After some really nifty passes, Daniel Cleary fired a shot that was very subtly re-directed at the top of the crease. Jiri Hudler got the other assist on the power play marker. I'm well aware of the fact that Johan Franzen and Jonathan Franzen are different people. The latter was the one who actually wrote The Corrections, but I still like to make the joke.

    Erik Cole answered the call with his second goal of the night at 10:36. Hank Zetterberg was off for tripping and Cole let one rip from the right circle. Hasek didn't have a chance. Scott Walker and Frantisek Kaberle had the assists on the power play goal.

    Andreas Lilja put the Wings back on top at 12:40. His rising shot from the high slot beat Cam Ward pretty badly. Niklas Kronwall and Jiri Hudler got the helpers.

    The second period ended 3-2. It was still very much a game despite the 26-11 shots on goal count favoring the Wings. If Carolina was tired, they didn't show it much

    In the third period, the fatigue started to show. Carolina's passes weren't very crisp and they looked a little confused at times. Detroit was penalized two times early in the period, giving the Hurricanes every chance to tie it up, but they just couldn't get it done.

    Pavel Datsyuk made a really pretty play to breakaway on Ward and beat him cleanly at 17:22 to make it a two goal game. The goal was unassisted

    Since this is a non-Conference game, the coaching strategy is a little different. Whereas normally the goaltender would be pulled with about 1:15 to play, Laviolette was a little more aggressive. Cam Ward was trying to come off the ice with about 2:15 to play. Unfortunately, Carolina couldn't get the puck deep enough for Ward to come off. He was all the way to the bench, but had to backpedal with Zetterberg storming in. Somehow, Ward got there in time to make a great stop on the Zetterberg breakaway, but the rebound went into the low slot where Tomas Holmstrom banged it in at 17:58. Zetterberg had the only assist.

    The shots on goal were 38-17 and although the five goals stand out in the box score, Cam Ward was pretty sharp. On the other end, the Dominator looked pretty shaky. For the home team, however, it was good enough.
    Detroit will travel to Nashville for a Monday night game while Carolina will go home and be idle until Wednesday when the Senators come to town.

    The "official" three stars were Hudler (third), Cole (second) and Lilja (first). I'm not so sure about that. Sure, Lilja got the game winner -- and it was a beauty, but I just don't think he was one of the best players on the ice. And I think Hudler was way better than he's being given credit for. The RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Niklas Lidstrom, DET --- two assists
    SECOND STAR Erik Cole, CAR --- two goals
    FIRST STAR Jiri Hudler, DET --- three assists

    A tale of two cities

    While Carolina is unbeatable in Montréal, they can't buy a win in Detroit. Add that to the difficulties of a 19-hour turnaround from the end of Saturday's game to the start of Sunday's.

    Entering last night's game, Carolina had eight consecutive wins at the Bell/Molson Centre, dating back to the lockout. The 5-1 win stretched that streak to nine, including postseason. Detroit is a different tale altogether. Carolina won game one of the 2002 Stanley Cup Final at the Joe, but aside from that, Carolina/Hartford hasn't won a game there since 1989. Unless I have it wrong, that's a run of 0-10-0-2. Throw in the 2002 Stanley Cup, and it's 1-12-0-2. That's a terrible record.

    Thanks in large part to that 2002 Stanley Cup disaster, the Hurricanes count Detroit as one of their rivals. They don't fool themselves into thinking that the feeling is reciprocated, but it's always a big game against the Wings. Carolina has done a little better against the Winged Wheel at the RBC Center, but not at the Joe.

    Ray Whitney will be playing there for the first time since they bought out his contract coming out of the lockout. He's not looking at it as a sort of homecoming. He doesn't say so, but I think it has to be a red letter game, going against a team that essentially threw him away.

    Chad LaRose, who is from nearby Fraser, Michigan is viewing this as a homecoming. He's snatched up about 60 tickets for relatives and friends. He's played in the Joe before, but not as a professional. As a seven year old, his team played a game there. According to Lord Stanley's Blog, he has a painful memory of that game
    “I had a penalty shot and I missed,” LaRose said. “I cried all the way home.”
    Defenseman Tim Gleason is also from the Detroit area. His hometown of Clawson is just 20 miles north of the Motor City. The paper doesn't mention it, but I'm sure he's got dozens of friends and family there as well.

    In order for Fox Sports South to air "The best damn archery shots" or "the best damn arm wrestling bouts" or some other such dreck, they won't show this game. Their excuse is that there's a college basketball game scheduled to air at 7:30. One that doesn't feature any of the teams from the FSS viewing area. You can still catch the game on Center Ice. Fox Sports Detroit is also scheduled to show a college basketball game at 7:30, but they're going to air the Red Wings game in its entirety, sacrificing the first seven minutes of the basketball game, joining it in progress.
    I wonder why FSS didn't consider the option of running the hockey game in its entirety, picking up the basketball game on a (roughly) seven minute tape delay, then catching up to live time during halftime. Seems like that would work.
    Anyway, it doesn't matter. I'll pick up the FSN Detroit broadcast.

    The Red Wings have been off since Friday, and are a red hot team. They're leading the league in goals per game at 3.36. Carolina is third with 3.2. Also, they're third in the league in goals allowed per game at 2.21 while Carolina is 23rd at 2.93.

    Chris Osgood, who has a league best 1.79 Goals Against Average, will thankfully have the night off. Dominik Hasek, though, is no slouch. His numbers this season are way less scary than they used to be, but he's still "The Dominator".

    Carolina will be very tired. They played in Montréal last night while the Wings were sleeping. However, they skated seven defensemen and really only rolled three lines last night. Since there was one healthy scratch (Jeff Hamilton) and two guys (Craig Adams, Trevor Letowski) who played sparingly on the fourth line, they'll be asked to contribute a lot tonight. Chad LaRose is all geeked up, so there won't be any problem getting effort from him, but it's going to be hard for the other guys.

    The second period will be the deal. That's when fatigue will most likely be the biggest factor working against the Canes. Maybe, just maybe, they'll get lucky and catch the Wings napping. I wouldn't bank on it though.

    Around the Wings blogosphere:
  • Abel to Yzerman
  • Behind the Jersey
  • On the Wings
  • Saturday, December 08, 2007

    Canes dominate Habs, take power naps

    On Saturday night, the Hurricanes played a very solid sixty minute game to make easy work of Les Habitants 5-1. For the second time in six days, they have looked like the 05-06 Canes. They were great on the penalty kill, they were flawless on the power play, the goaltending was phenomenal, and they got some remarkable play from the defensemen.

    Unfortunately, the Hurricanes won't have any time to celebrate. They have to make a very quick trip through US customs and into Detroit tonight for a 5:00 game tomorrow. Tonight's game ended at about 9:40, putting just 19:20 between the end of this game and the start of the next.

    Erik "Hab Killa" Cole got the scoring going pretty early. At 3:51, he wristed one in from the right circle. Ray Whitney forced Kyle Chipchura to commit a turnover at center ice, then made a nifty backhand pass to Matt Cullen at the blue line. He came down the left wing, with Cole on the right. Two defensemen were back, but the passes were perfect. Actually, the referee was somewhat of a moving pick, and Cole used that to his advantage. In fact, the referee also served as a screen, preventing Carey Price from getting a good look at the shot. It was just the fifth goal of the season for Cole, but it signaled the beginning of a great game for him.

    At 8:58, the Canadiens had a goal by Mark Streit disallowed. A shot trickled over the goal line just off the right post. The on-ice call was goal, but upon review, it was determined that the puck was kicked in by Streit's left skate, and the score remained 1-0 Carolina.

    Eric Staal made it 2-0 at 12:13 of the first. With Alexei Kovalev in the box for tripping, the Canes were able to move the puck around pretty well. Justin "Viva" Williams fired a shot from near the left point that was tipped by Staal at the inside hashmarks on the left circle. Scott Walker picked up the secondary assist.

    The second period started with a bang. Scott Walker boarded Mike Komisarek into the end wall behind Cam Ward, which prompted Komisarek to instigate a fight. When the dust settled, Walker had two minutes for boarding and five for fighting for seven minutes total. Komisarek had two for instigating, five for fighting and a ten minute misconduct that comes with the instigator. Nobody served the time and there was no advantage. The "ten minute" misconduct doesn't actually carry ten minutes of penalty time; it serves the function of a yellow card in soccer. He can get no more of two of those in a season without being slapped with a match penalty (ejection).

    The Habs got on the board at 9:26 of the second. Eric Staal was in the box, affording the home team a power play. From under the goal line to Cam Ward's left, Kovalev fired a shot in the general direction of the goal. There was a bevy of humanity out front, and the puck caromed in. Credit was given to Andrei Kastsitsyn for the tip-in, but it might have also gone in off Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason's stick. No matter what, the puck was legally across the line and it was 2-1. Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec had the helpers.

    Rod Brind'Amour scored his 14th goal of the season at 11:46 of the second from the high slot. Chad "Sharpie" La Rose fed him from the left half-wall, and Price never even saw the shot. Viva got the secondary assist for his 20th helper of the season.

    Ray Whitney made it 4-1 at 19:26 of the second. Saku Koivu had just been called for high-sticking. On the ensuing faceoff in the right circle, Matt Cullen won it cleanly back to Dennis Baron Von Seidenberg at the right point. He found Whitney in the high slot for the one-timer. The power play lasted only four seconds, and Koivu had not even begun to feel shame.

    During the second intermission, Guy Carbonneau pulled Price. Jaroslav Halak, who was called up to back up Price while Cristobal Huet is hurt, made his NHL debut and finished the game between the pipes for the home team.

    At 6:28 of the final stanza, Ray Whitney scored again to make it 5-1. He and Erik Cole were on a two-on-one break and the Wizard snapped it in from the left circle. Cole and Cullen got the assists.

    Just moments later, LaRose appeared to give the Canes a 6-1 lead, but the goal was wiped off when the ruling was that Justin Williams interfered with Halak's ability to make a save. Goaltender interference is not a reviewable thing, but replays showed that it was Kovalev rather than Williams who bumped Halak. Regardless, Sharpie and the rest of the Canes could still smile about it.

    There was no more scoring for the rest of the game, but Cam Ward made some sparkling saves as the final period wore on and the Habs crowd got more and more restless.

    All season, the Hurricanes have struggled with focus, effort and drive. Tonight, just like Monday, they played well. Not just for a few shifts, or for a period. They played well for the entire game. There were only two power plays, and they converted both. They had to kill off a full two minutes of five-on three and two consecutive five-on-four situations in the third. Cam Ward was sharp. Very sharp. The one time he wasn't sharp, Baron Von Seidenberg came over and made a spectacular defensive play in net -- stopping a sure goal -- while Cam was out of position. Even in the late going, with the game in hand, Cam didn't mail it in. Some of his best saves came in the final minutes with a four goal lead.

    Earlier today, I noted that five Hurricanes players had 27 or more points heading into the game. Four of them had big nights. Cullen had three assists to give him 30 (6/24) on the season. Whitney had two goals and an assist to give him 30 (14/16) points. Williams had two assists to give him 29 (9/20) points. Brind'Amour had a goal to give him 32 (14/18) points.

    Erik Cole added a goal and an assist to give him 17 (5/12) points on the season. In 10 career regular season games at the Bell Center, he now has 14 (9/5) points.

    Cam Ward also continued his mastery in that building. He stopped 35 of 36 shots en route to his seventh win with no losses in Montréal.

    This series is over for the season. Carolina went 2-1-1, earning five points and the narrow series win.

    The "official" three stars were Erik Cole (third), Matt Cullen (second) and Ray Whitney (first). When Buffalo manhandled the Canes last Saturday with a complete and well balanced game, I had a hard time picking my stars. They could have gone to any three players. It's pretty much the same tonight, except the shoe is on the other hand.

  • Dennis Baron Von Seidenberg deserves some love. He had a spectacular game. Six blocked shots, three hits, an assist.
  • Viva also deserves some love. He had two assists, two takeaways, and he managed to stay out of the box.
  • Erik Cole had one of his best games of the year. A goal and an assist, and he was absolutely flying out there.

    After some great deal of deliberation, the RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 35 saves, win
    SECOND STAR Matt Cullen, CAR --- 3 assists, 71% faceoff (10/14)
    FIRST STAR Ray Whitney, CAR --- 2 goals, 1 assist, 9 SOG, 2 takeaways

    Normally in a back-to-back situation, John Grahame would get the start on the back end. Especially with the abnormally short turn-around. However, Crackers has been lousy lately and Cam has been very good. Even if the horse is tired, there's no point in changing horses midstream when the #1 horse is head and shoulders above the other. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Cam gets the nod again.

    That said, Detroit is a very good team, and they're rested. They'll be looking to do what Buffalo did last Saturday: take advantage of the tired visitors.

    Canes-Wings will not be on Fox Sports South due to the airing of "the 50 best damn poker hands" or "the 50 best damn Geico commercials" or some such nonsense. FSN-Detroit will be airing the game, then joining a college basketball game in progress.
  • Canes to end road trip with grueling back-to-back

    On Saturday afternoon, the Hurricanes will enter the friendly confines of the Bell Centre to take on the Canadiens. This game will end at about 9:30 eastern time. The Canes will then immediately fly to Detroit after going through Customs and play a Sunday afternoon game at 5:00 eastern. The Red Wings will be resting at home after having played there Friday night.

    This seems extreme, but there are no rules against this kind of quick turnaround.

    Carolina hasn't lost a game in Montréal since before the lockout, and there are two Hurricaes players who would just as soon call the Bell Centre home:
    • In nine regular season games in Montréal, Erik Cole has registered 12 (8/4) points including two hat tricks. Last game there, Cole recorded one assist.
      In addition, Cole scored three goals in three playoff games at Molson in 2002.
    • Cam Ward has never lost a game in Montréal. He has a career GAA of 1.48 and a save % of .948 in that building.

    For the Hurricanes, Nic Wallin is "probable" for Saturday after sitting out a few games with lingering shoulder issues. Mike Commodore will continue to be out with a broken finger.

    As for Les Habitants, they will be without the services of left wing Steve Bégin (shoulder) and centerman Brian Smolinski (knee). The slumping Michael Ryder was a healthy scratch in Montréal's last game as a "message" from coach Guy Carbonneau. Goaltender Cristobal Huet is out with a groin injury, leaving Carey Price at the wheel.

    Puck drop will be at 7:00.

    The Canes have been doing the Jekkyl/Hyde thing, alternating wins and losses. Their last game was a 2-1 loss at Tampa.

    The Habs are coming off a 4-2 win over Boston. They have also been (for the most part) alternating wins and losses.

    This will close out the four game series between the two teams. The Habs have won two and lost one. They have outscored Carolina 11-9 in those three games.

    Montréal's offensive leaders are Alex Kovalev with 23 (12/11) points, Tomas Plekanec with 21 (9/12) and Saku Koivu with 21 (5/16).

    Carolina's offensive leaders are Cory Stillman with 34 (16/18) points, Rod Brind'Amour with 31 (13/18) and Ray Whitney (12/15) Matt Cullen (6/21) and Justin Williams (9/18) with 27 points apiece.

    Around the Habs blogosphere:
  • A Theory of Ice
  • Eyes on the Prize
  • Four Habs Fans
  • Sisu Hockey

    A full writeup should follow the game.
  • Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Recchin' ball waived, fans get bobbleheads.

    On Monday night, Penguins fans in attendance for their 3-1 win over Phoenix received a Mark Recchi bobblehead doll in commemoration of Recchi's 500th NHL goal (which was scored last season). The 39-year old two-time Cup winner was a healthy scratch, as he had been for seven of the last eight games.
    Recchi has had a less than spectacular season, amassing just eight (2/6) points in 19 games. On Tuesday morning, the Pens placed Recchi on waivers. Nobody made a move.

    Some sentimental fans around here wanted to see the return of the Rechhin' ball, but Jim Rutherford wasn't at all interested in picking up the balance of a $1.75M salary for a guy who wouldn't have a place on the Canes roster.

    There was some bitter irony to the fact that Recchi's career has most likely come to an end one night after his team gave away bobbleheads in his likeness. Or maybe it's fitting. You tell me.

    Oddly, this wasn't the first time the Penguins have been involved in a bobblehead SNAFU.

    March 6, 2003 was Alexei Kovalev bobblehead doll night. Carolina was the unruly visitor that night and Jeff O'Neill was the game's first star in a 4-0 shutout win over the slumping Penguins. It may have been Alexei Kovalev bobblehead night, but the problem was that he had been traded to the Rangers on February 10. Rather than cancel the promotion and "disappoint fans who bought tickets in anticipation of getting the souvenirs", they went ahead with it and distributed the obsolete gifts.

    Of course the Penguins have had dozens of promotional souvenir nights that went off without a hitch, but these two are kinda funny.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Canes bounce back, destroy Blueshirts

    On Saturday, the Sabres worked up a Number 6 on the Hurricanes. As it turns out, it was just what the doctor ordered. Carolina righted the ship against the Rangers with a 4-0 shutout. It was far and away their best total game this season, and maybe the best I've seen.

    Scott Walker opened the scoring at 5:22 of the first. After two Rangers turnovers deep in their own end, Walker was in on a mini-break and beat Henrik Lundqvist from the low slot. Matt Cullen and Chad "Sharpie" LaRose had the helpers.

    After a particularly nice penalty kill, the Canes made it 2-0 when Matt Cullen beat Lundqvist from the top of the crease. Although Cullen had two guys draped all over him, Cory Stillman played the part of Tom Brady to Cully's Randy Moss. He threaded the needle and Cully simply tapped it in. Time of the goal was 19:45. Assists to Stillman and Justin "Viva" Williams.. After an hour and a half, the scoring was changed. They declared that the puck went in off Marc Staal's stick. Therefore, Stillman got credit for the goal. Viva and Cullen got the helpers.

    There was no scoring in the second. The Rangers had the majority of the scoring chances, and Cam Ward looked very sharp turning them all away. More importantly, both Frantisek Kaberle and Bret Hedican played very responsibly in their own zone. I have routinely called both of these guys out all season, and I've been clamoring for the Canes to ship Kaberle out of here. Those two really stepped up. Dennis Seidenberg also played very well in the second, blocking shots and dishing out hits.

    The third period was again all Canes.

    There were a few questionable calls each way in the third frame. One of them put David Tanabe in the box for tripping after he made a great recovery to thwart a breakaway chance by the Rangers. Although he got to the puck before the player, the referee saw it another way and put Snuggles in the box to feel shame for two minutes.

    All the same, there was justice. The hockey gods made sure that the tables were turned. Snuggles came out of the box to meet a rink-wide pass, and he was in all alone on Lundqvist. Tanabe looked like Matt Cullen out there, forcing the goaltender to guess glove side, then beating him badly on the blocker side. Dennis "Baron Von" Seidenberg had the only assist. Time of the goal was 11:30.

    The icing on the cake came at 13:56. Cory Stillman tapped one in after a great individual effort. He worked the puck behind the net, then found Williams, who fed Staal out front. Lundqvist answered the bell, but Stillman was back around front to knock the rebound in. Viva and Staal had the assists.

    Down the stretch, there wasn't much gas left in the Rangers' tank and Carolina pretty much waited out the final buzzer.

    This was the first game of the season between these two teams, so it was the first time Eric and Marc Staal played against each other. With about one minute to play, they got in a little jostling bout down in the corner. It was probably just for the sake of doing it.

    This was polar opposite from Saturday's heartless effort up in Lackawanna. Thanks very much to the Sabres for getting the Canes back in shape.

    Seriously, though, coach Laviolette shook up all of the forward lines and the defense pairings. It worked like a charm. I suppose it was a combination of the ass-whipping and the line changes. Whatever it was, it did the trick.

    The "official" three stars were Matt Cullen (third), Cam Ward (second) and Cory Stillman (first). I have a hard time disputing that.

    The RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Matt Cullen, CAR --- 2 assists, 71% faceoff (5/7)
    SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 28 saves, shutout
    FIRST STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- 2 goals

    Honorary mention I goes to Eric Staal. He had an assist and led all players with 6 hits.
    Honorary mention II goes to every single defenseman. 11 blocked shots. Good PK. Very responsible play all the way around. And David effing Tanabe shed the "Avi" moniker by having his best game of the season.

    This was a complete game. The only time all season that Carolina has played a 60 minute game. This feels so good compared to the debacle that Saturday night was.

    The five game road trip will pause for a few days. The Canes play again on Thursday in the City of Tampa. In the interim, they'll return to Raleigh for a quick visit.


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