NHL Short Notes

1.    TKACHUK ON INJURED RESERVED

The drive for a post season berth will be that much harder for the St. Louis Blues as they have lost veteran forward Keith Tkachuk due to a fractured pinkie. This 37 year-old who has 12 goals and 28 points is expected to miss approximately 10 days following the Olympic break. Currently the Blues are only four points out of a post season position in the tough Western Conference.

2.    JANSSEN GONE FOR FIVE GAMES

Known for his rugged play bruising St. Louis Blues forward Cam Janssen has been slapped with a five game suspension as a result of a questionable headshot to Washington Capitals Matt Bradley. Janssen who is in his fourth season is not exactly known for his offence as he has 0 points but an astounding 163 penalty minutes in only 38 games. 

3.    AULD CLEARS WAIVERS 

In a bit of a surprising move veteran goaltender Alex Auld cleared waivers on Thursday and was assigned to the AHL’s Texas Stars. The 29 year-old Auld was in his first year with the Dallas Stars and had registered only nine wins in 21 games with a less than stellar .894 save percentage at the time he was put on waivers. This former 1999 Florida Panthers draft pick has 83 wins and a 2.78 GAA in his seven year career with the Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators and the Stars.

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Vyacheslav Kozlov Maybe Next to go in Atlanta

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Atlanta Thrashers organization who on Friday suffered another major hit. Since coming to the NHL in 1999-2000 Atlanta who have only made the post- season once have for various reasons over the years had to trade some of their solid players such as Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk and now it looks like Vyacheslav Kozlov will be next. Coming out of the break only two points out of a playoff spot Atlanta who recently traded their franchise leading scorer in Kovalchuk learned that Kovlov who is a 17 year veteran has requested a trade. This two time Stanley Cup winner (with Detroit Red Wings) who is having an off year with only 24 points has due to coach John Anderson’s decision played in only two of the last 10 games. “I don’t know if I’m going to be on this team or another team,” Kovlov who is in his seventh year in Atlanta said. “With coach not playing me, what can you do? That’s why I feel I could go play for somebody that needs my help. If so I’ll waive my no trade clause.”  During his lengthy career this 37 year-old has had stints with the Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres and the Thrashers. Over 1,179 games he has scored 356 goals and 851 points in over 1,000 games. If Atlanta wants to play the Cinderella role this spring in enjoying a long playoff run then they will need a veteran influence such as Kozlov on not only the ice but in the dressing room as well. The Thrashers deserve a lot of credit for being within a hair of a playoff spot when you consider all the turmoil they have endured off the ice. A huge question hanging over the heads of management this year has been the status of captain and their former 2001 first overall pick in Kovalchuk. This superstar who scored 91 points last season refused to sign a contract extension which eventually forced management to trade him as opposed to losing him for nothing on the free agent market. Reluctantly on February 4 they traded their number one forward to the New Jersey Devils. As an outsider looking in I would hate to see a franchise starving for success such as the Thrashers have to deal two important forwards in the same season.

Martin Brodeur

Being a huge Martin Brodeur fan I just can’t seem to shake this lingering sadness that I have that he will conclude his final Olympic games sitting on the bench wearing a baseball cap as opposed to playing a bigger part in Canada’s quest for a 2010 Olympic gold medal. Over the years I’ve gotten to appreciate the elite goaltending of this 37 year-old who has won three Stanley Cups over his 16 year career all with the New Jersey Devils. Brodeur who as every hockey fan knows is the all time leader with 591 wins and 108 shutouts has for years been a warrior for his country in International competition. Trying not to sound to sappy but without question one of my favourite images in hockey is him bouncing up and down in sheer excitement and being mobbed by his teammates following their clinching gold medal victory over the states at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. During those games Brodeur who was in his prime was stellar in posting a 4-0 record in five games to go along with a sparkling 1.80 GAA. Nothing against Roberto Luongo who is Canada’s other top goalie but in my heart I wanted to see Brodeur go out on his terms which I believe he deserves. Even though he struggled with a 3.23 GAA and a .845 save percentage in his last three games prior to the Olympic break I still believe that he has one more good run left before father time catches up. In game two of the recent Olympics preliminary round Brodeur was solid with the exception of one goal as he turned aside 21 shots in helping Canada prevail with a 3-2 shootout victory against Switzerland. Unfortunately for the former 1990 first round draft choice he struggled in his next start as he surrendered two iffy goals in a 5-3 loss against the United States. Following that game many in the media were critical of Brodeur including Canada’s coach Mike Babcock who decided that Luongo would be his go to guy for the playoff games. I can’t emphasise enough that Luongo is an exceptional goaltender but in my heart I would have like to see the perfect story book ending of his Olympic career and that would have been for him to once more showcase his still exceptional goaltending talent on the big stage in leading Canada to Olympic gold. Being a huge Martin Brodeur fan I just can’t seem to shake this lingering sadness that I have that he will conclude his final Olympic games sitting on the bench wearing a baseball cap as opposed to playing a bigger part in Canada’s quest for a 2010 Olympic gold medal. Over the years I’ve gotten to appreciate the elite goaltending of this 37 year-old who has won three Stanley Cups over his 16 year career all with the New Jersey Devils. Brodeur who as every hockey fan knows is the all time leader with 591 wins and 108 shutouts has for years been a warrior for his country in International competition. Trying not to sound to sappy but without question one of my favourite images in hockey is him bouncing up and down in sheer excitement and being mobbed by his teammates following their clinching gold medal victory over the states at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. During those games Brodeur who was in his prime was stellar in posting a 4-0 record in five games to go along with a sparkling 1.80 GAA. Nothing against Roberto Luongo who is Canada’s other top goalie but in my heart I wanted to see Brodeur go out on his terms which I believe he deserves. Even though he struggled with a 3.23 GAA and a .845 save percentage in his last three games prior to the Olympic break I still believe that he has one more good run left before father time catches up. In game two of the recent Olympics preliminary round Brodeur was solid with the exception of one goal as he turned aside 21 shots in helping Canada prevail with a 3-2 shootout victory against Switzerland. Unfortunately for the former 1990 first round draft choice he struggled in his next start as he surrendered two iffy goals in a 5-3 loss against the United States. Following that game many in the media were critical of Brodeur including Canada’s coach Mike Babcock who decided that Luongo would be his go to guy for the playoff games. I can’t emphasise enough that Luongo is an exceptional goaltender but in my heart I would have like to see the perfect story book ending of his Olympic career and that would have been for him to once more showcase his still exceptional goaltending talent on the big stage in leading Canada to Olympic gold.

NHL Short Notes

1.    TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING SHAKEUP

In a move that has apparently ruffled some feathers the Tampa Bay Lightning who lost their past three games heading into the break have made a controversial front office move. On Wednesday the Lightning who are only one point out of a playoff spot have fired assistant coach Wes Waltz. According to various sources general manager Brian Lawton pulled the trigger without informing head coach Rick Tocchet which left him less than thrilled. Jim Johnson will be taking Waltz job.

2.    AULD PUT ON WAIVERS

After the Dallas Stars went out in early February and traded for goalie Kari Lehtonen it seemed only a matter of time before the team made another move. When Lehtonen came to town the Stars had two other capable goalies in veterans Marty Turco and Alex Auld who are both solid players. In a surprise move on Wednesday the Stars who were rumoured to be trying to trade Turco took another route and put Auld on waivers. There is a good chance that by noon on Thursday Auld who has nine wins this season will be picked off the waiver wire by another team. This seven year veteran is scheduled to become a free agent this summer.

3.    RINNE SIGNS LONG TERMS WITH PREDATORS

The Nashville Predators who are currently holding down seventh seed in the Western Conference can take a deep sigh of relief in knowing that their young up and coming goaltender Pekka Rinne won’t in July be testing free agency. This 27 year-old showed his commitment to the Predators when on Wednesday he signed a lucrative two year deal worth 6.8 million dollars. Splitting the duties with another up and comer in Dan Ellis, Rinne who is in his third year has registered 20 wins, 2.80 GAA and a .902 save percentage.

Czechs defeat Latvia

It took an overtime goal from forward David Krejci on Wednesday night to keep the 12th seeded Latvia squad from pulling off what would have been a stunning upset against the Czech Republic. The fifth seeded Czechs who earlier in the tournament beat Latvia may have perhaps gotten a little overconfident after taking a 2-0 lead into the second period. A turning point in this preliminary game came when five- time Art Ross Trophy winner Jaromir Jagr was badly shaken up in the second period with what looked like an apparent neck injury. Once this 38 year-old leader went down and didn’t return the Czechs who won a bronze medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics lost their swagger as Latvia began controlling the play. Prior to the injury Czechoslovakia got goals from Tomas Fleischmann and Tomas Rolinek but couldn’t hold the lead. Standing tall on this night for the Czechs was their veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun who came up especially big in the second period when he made a series of brilliant saves with his team killing a two man advantage. Vokoun who is playing in his second Olympics also came up big in the third when he stoned Latvia’s Armands Berzins who was on a clear cut breakaway. With less than ten minutes remaining in regulation Latvia refused to quit as they put a strong scare into their opponents after getting goals from Martins Cipulis and Mikelis Redlihs to tie things up with only 3:41 remaining in regulation. Heading into overtime the Czechs got some early chances against a red hot goaltender who in regulation alone made a remarkable 47 saves. Unfortunately for Latvia they weren’t quite able to complete the upset as Krejci scored the biggest goal in the Olympics this year to propel the Czechs into the quarterfinals.

Luongo was Stellar, How did He Get There?

After allowing a couple of questionable goals in a 5-3 loss against the United States on Sunday it was really no big surprise that Team Canada Coach Mike Babcock decided to give the nod to backup Roberto Luongo on Tuesday against Germany. Even though throughout the years Brodeur has been a proven warrior for Canada this 37 year-old still wasn’t immune to taking some criticism from his coach following that last game. “Obviously tonight we would have liked to be better in that area,” Babcock said referring to his goaltending. “Miller was excellent for them…between our D and Marty, early in the game we didn’t execute.” Showing the kind of competitor the three time Stanley Cup winner is Brodeur was reportedly to put it mildly not to happy with Babcock for going with Luongo against Germany in this qualification match. During the Salt Lake City Olympics back in 2002 a much younger Brodeur who at that time was in his prime took over from Curtis Joseph after an ugly opening loss and led Canada to a gold medal. With the loss Canada who outshot the States 45-23 will now have to win four in a row including a win against the hungry Russians. Luongo who shut out Norway in his only Olympic performance is feeling confident in what lies ahead against Germany. “When you’re excited and the adrenaline’s going, you don’t have any problems finding that rhythm,” Luongo said. “Just the way I felt at practice today was great. I stopped almost every shot. I felt square. I felt good. I was seeing the puck well.” A huge advantage for Canada is that Luongo who is the Vancouver Canucks captain will have the luxury of playing in front of his home fans who are sure to give him a thunderous ovation moments before puck drop.

“Alex the Great” Rocks Jagr and the Czechs

Once again Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin showed absolutely no hesitation in sacrificing his body to help his hockey team win. Even though this 24 year-old has received criticism in recent years for throwing his body around and looking for that big hit Ovechkin said on countless occasions that he doesn’t plan to change and he demonstrated that on Sunday against the Czech Republic. On this occasion Ovechkin provided the game’s turning point when during the third period with his team leading 2-1 he delivered a solid open ice hit on Czech superstar Jaromir Jagr which moments later led to another Russian goal. “It’s a lift, it’s a great hit, a clean hit, right at the time when Jags tried to pick up the pace a bit and we scored right away,” Russian veteran defenceman Sergei Gonchar who was an Ovechkin victim on a controversial knee of knee hit last year said. “Obviously, it gave us a lift and we score right after that.” Following the hit Russia who are one of the favourites to win gold got puck procession and skated in on an odd man rush which resulted in Alexander Semin feeding Evgeni Malkin for a goal. Following what was an eventual 4-2 win for Russia Jagr’s competitiveness was shown when he spoke to the media. “I do not care about the check,” the 38 year-old said. “I care about the turnover. It was my mistake. I made a bad decision.” Russia opened the scoring on Malkin’s first of two goals but quickly found themselves in penalty trouble and paid the price. With a two man advantage forward Tomas Plekanec tied things up for the Czechs who came into this game undefeated. In a pretty even second period the only goal went to veteran Viktor Kozlov who gave Russia a lead after two that they wouldn’t relinquish. After Malkin scored his second to give Russia that insurance marker the Czechs made things interesting when Milan Michalek scored late in the third. In the dying moments the Czechs gambled by pulling their goalie but saw it backfire when Pavel Datsyuk scored to seal a Russian victory. What really cost the Czechs in this game was that they only executed once in six power play opportunities.