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64 posts from April 2011

April 28, 2011

NHL Conference Semifinal Schedule Released

Horton And we're off.

Here's your official schedule for the NHL's conference semifinals.

Could the second round even be better than the first?


SERIES I                        TIME (ET)       

#1 Washington vs. #5 Tampa Bay                Network       
Friday, April 29, 2011                7 p.m.                Tampa Bay at Washington                        VERSUS**, TSN
Sunday, May 1, 2011                7 p.m.                Tampa Bay at Washington                        VERSUS**, CBC
Tuesday, May 3, 2011                TBD                Washington at Tampa Bay                        VERSUS, TSN
Wednesday, May 4, 2011                  7 p.m.                Washington at Tampa Bay                        TSN
*Saturday, May 7, 2011                12:30 p.m.        Tampa Bay at Washington                        NBC, TSN
*Monday, May 9, 2011                TBD                Washington at Tampa Bay                        VERSUS, TSN
*Wednesday, May 11, 2011        TBD                Tampa Bay at Washington                        VERSUS, TSN

SERIES J                        TIME (ET)        #2 Philadelphia vs. #3 Boston                Network       
Saturday, April 30, 2011                3 p.m.                Boston at Philadelphia                        NBC, CBC
Monday, May 2, 2011                7:30 p.m.                Boston at Philadelphia                        VERSUS**, TSN
Wednesday, May 4, 2011                7 p.m.                Philadelphia at Boston                        VERSUS**, CBC
Friday, May 6, 2011                8 p.m.                Philadelphia at Boston                        VERSUS (JIP), CBC
*Sunday, May 8, 2011                3 p.m.                Boston at Philadelphia                        NBC, CBC
*Tuesday, May 10, 2011                TBD                Philadelphia at Boston                        VERSUS, CBC
*Thursday, May 12, 2011                TBD                Boston at Philadelphia                        VERSUS, CBC


SERIES K                        TIME (ET)        #1 Vancouver vs. #5 Nashville                Network               
Thursday, April 28, 2011                9 p.m.                Nashville at Vancouver                        CBC, VERSUS
Saturday, April 30, 2011                9 p.m.                Nashville at Vancouver                        CBC, VERSUS**
Tuesday, May 3, 2011                TBD                Vancouver at Nashville                        CBC, VERSUS
Thursday, May 5, 2011                TBD                Vancouver at Nashville                        CBC, VERSUS
*Saturday, May 7, 2011                8 p.m.                Nashville at Vancouver                        CBC, VERSUS**
*Monday, May 9, 2011                TBD                Vancouver at Nashville                        CBC, VERSUS
*Wednesday, May 11, 2011        TBD                Nashville at Vancouver                        CBC, VERSUS

SERIES L                        TIME (ET)        #2 San Jose vs. #3 Detroit                        Network               
Friday, April 29, 2011                10 p.m.                Detroit at San Jose                        VERSUS, TSN
Sunday, May 1, 2011                3 p.m.                Detroit at San Jose                        NBC, TSN
Wednesday, May 4, 2011                8 p.m.                San Jose at Detroit                        VERSUS (JIP), TSN
Friday, May 6, 2011                7 p.m.                San Jose at Detroit                        VERSUS**, TSN
*Sunday, May 8, 2011                8 p.m.                Detroit at San Jose                        VERSUS**, TSN
*Tuesday, May 10, 2011                TBD                San Jose at Detroit                        VERSUS, TSN
*Thursday, May 12, 2011                TBD                Detroit at San Jose                        VERSUS, TSN

* If necessary                          VERSUS** denotes exclusive telecast                  JIP – Joined In Progress                ALL TIMES LISTED ARE EASTERN TIME

April 27, 2011

Mike Santos: Florida Panthers Haven't Spoken with Anyone

Helpwanted Florida Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos said Wednesday that "to his knowledge" the team has not asked anyone for permission to speak with coaches on staff.

That would include Atlanta and John Torchetti. Atlanta GM Rick Dudley told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the Panthers asked for -- and were granted -- permission to speak to Torchetti.

Santos said he didn't reach out to Dudley and with GM Dale Tallon in Europe scouting, doubts that he did either. Either way, they haven't spoken with anyone regarding their vacancy and aren't in much of a rush.

Tallon gets back next week. Right now the team is just compiling their list, watching and waiting to see what happens as the playoffs move along.

Santos added that those who think the Panthers are going to hire a guy with Chicago (Tallon) or Nashville (Santos) ties are "over-thinking things a bit.'' Santos said the Panthers are looking at all options.

"We need the right personality that fits here,'' he said.

-- Santos added there have been general discussions with Erik Gudbranson (third overall pick, 2010) regarding a contract, "but there's no deadline. We don't have to have him signed right now. There are more pressing issues.''

-- Santos also said he had one very "general" talk with Tomas Vokoun's people. Assuming Vokoun is going to walk July 1 is premature, Santos said.


Keaton Ellerby Gets Boost of Confidence from Florida Panthers in One-Way Contract

Ellerby The Panthers signed defenseman Keaton Ellerby to a one-year deal on Wednesday.

The contract includes a one-way clause making it tougher for the Panthers to send Ellerby to the minors next season. Ellerby played in 54 games with the Panthers last season – a career high – but also spent 17 games with Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

Ellerby, the tenth overall pick in the 2007 draft, says he is “super excited” about the new contract as he is the first of Florida's eight restricted free agents to sign. Ellerby, 22, is not eligible to become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2015-16 season.

“It's huge to get the one-way,'' Ellerby said from British Columbia. Ellerby spent Tuesday night at Vancouver's Rogers Arena watching the Canucks' overtime victory over Chicago courtesy of former teammate Chris Higgins.

“It's nice to put the AHL in the rear view mirror. This is the year we're going to make the playoffs and I'm excited and appreciative of [GM] Dale Tallon and [assistant GM] Mike Santos for giving me what my agent and I were looking for.''

Ellerby played a much bigger role with the Panthers this season than he did in 2009-10 when he was called up and played sparingly by coach Pete DeBoer. Ellerby's offseason work was praised by DeBoer and his confidence in playing Ellerby showed. Ellerby, who came into training camp 20 pounds heavier than when he left, says he's going to follow the same offseason regimen as he did in 2010.

“I have to come in and earn my ice time, show I'm ready to be a full-time NHLer,'' said Ellerby, who spent most of the year paired with fellow youngster Dmitry Kulikov. “I have to step up, play a bigger role, help the team get where we want to be. .-.-. This contract gives me some stability, confidence in where I'm going to be. It's nice to now you can settle in, do the things the team wants to do.''

Like Jason Garrison before him, Ellerby took a little less money for the security of the one-way deal. Ellerby will make the same $875,000 he made in 2010-11.

“He finally emerged this year and showed he can be a full-time NHL defenseman in the future,'' Santos said. “The way he played in the last half of the season showed some confidence with the puck. It made sense, he can be in our top seven and contribute regularly.''

-- Santos also said goalie Brian Foster, a fifth-round pick in 2005, has been signed to an entry level contract and will join the team at training camp. Foster played for ECHL Cincinnati last season.

April 22, 2011

Marlins Anibal Sanchez Gives Hockey Writer a Good Game in Miami

Covering baseball tonight and I picked one heck of a night to come to the ballpark, err, stadium.

If you want to read my story about Anibal Sanchez's flirtation with history (his no-hit bid ended in the ninth inning on Friday), visit our Marlins blog, "On Frozen Infield.'' Just kidding. Called 'Fish Bytes.'

Will also have OnFrozenFilm from Sanchez's postgame presser.

It's a whole lot of fun!


April 21, 2011

Florida Panthers Sign John McFarland ... Coaching Search Looks Familiar So Far

Torchetti Good afternoon folks, hope all is well.

Been busy doing other things the past few days, but it's time to clear the notebook.

First, the big news around the Panthers is the team asking Atlanta for permission to speak to John Torchetti for the vacant head coaching gig.

Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (yeah, I never heard of him either) spoke with Atlanta GM Rick Dudley where it was revealed that the Panthers want to talk to Torch. Dudley said he would allow Minnesota permission to speak with him as well.

Obviously, Torchetti is known around South Florida. Torchetti was the Panthers interim coach in 2004, losing his job in the Mike Keenan/Jacques Martin combo deal following that season. Oh yeah, Dudley lost his job during that power play as well.

Torchetti is also known to Dale Tallon as he was an assistant coach on Chicago's Stanley Cup winning team last summer.

If Torchetti is hired, would he be considered the 11th coach in franchise history since he already is the eighth?

This is still a long way from being settled.

Mcfarland -- The Panthers have been real busy getting their prospects signed, adding forward John McFarland on Thursday.

McFarland was selected by the Panthers in the second round of last year's draft. Florida had earlier signed Quinton Howden (a first round pick in 2010) and defenseman Alex Petrovic (second round 2010).

I don't think that any of those three will make the Panthers out of training camp, but they will all have a chance to. Especially the forwards.

I was told a few weeks ago that Erik Gudbranson is expected to be signed before the team's rookie development camp which will be held in Coral Springs in July. Center Nick Bjugstad isn't expected to be signed by the team this year as he plans to return to the University of Minnesota for his sophomore season.

April 19, 2011

One that Got Away: Michael Grabner a Calder Trophy Finalist


Michael Grabner started the 2010-11 season in training camp with the Panthers after being acquired in the Keith Ballard deal with the Canucks.

Grabner had a poor camp, and since he had a cheaper contract (than say, Steven Reinprecht or Steve Bernier), was put on waivers so he could work on his game in Rochester.

Instead, the Islanders picked him up and he worked on his game on Long Island.

I don't think Grabs is going to win the Calder, but he had a heck of a year. This is one move the Panthers wouldn't mind a do-over on. 

This is the official release from the NHL:

San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture, New York Islanders right wing Michael Grabner and Carolina Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner are the three finalists for the 2010-11 Calder Trophy, awarded “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition,” the National Hockey League announced today. 

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association submitted ballots for the Calder Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists.

The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 22, during the 2011 NHL Awards from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas. The 2011 NHL Awards will be broadcast by VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada. 

Following are the finalists for the Calder Trophy, in alphabetical order: 

Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks 
        Couture was a key contributor in all areas on a Sharks team that captured its fourth consecutive Pacific Division title. The 22-year-old center ranked second on San Jose in goals (32), game-winning goals (eight) and plus-minus (+18); placed third in shots (253) and face-offs (888); fourth in power-play goals (10) and sixth in points (56). He led all rookies in game-winning goals, power-play goals, shots and face-offs, finished second in goals and points and was fifth in plus-minus. The Sharks' first-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft tallied seven of his game-winning goals on the road, the most ever by an NHL rookie. 

Michael Grabner, New York Islanders 
Grabner didn't start the season with the Islanders, but ended it as the club's goals leader with 34, a total that also led NHL rookies. Claimed on waivers from Florida on Oct. 5, Grabner surged near the top of the rookie scoring race with a run of 16 goals in 15 games from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15, a period also highlighted by a first-place finish in the Fastest Skater event at the 2011 NHL SuperSkills. His six-game goal streak from Feb. 1-15 matched the longest by any player this season. The 23-year-old Villach, Austria native led all rookies in shorthanded goals (six), ranked second in shots (228) and seventh in plus-minus (+13). 

Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes 
The Hurricanes reaped immediate dividends from their top pick in the 2010 Entry Draft as the 18-year-old Skinner, selected seventh overall last June, led all rookies in scoring as the League's youngest player. His performance over the first half of the season earned him a berth in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, played in front of a hometown crowd in Raleigh. He went on to lead all rookies in points (63), rank second in assists (32) and third in goals (31). Skinner netted his 30th goal of the season Apr. 6 against Detroit, becoming the seventh-youngest player in NHL history to reach the milestone (18 years, 325 days). 

From 1936-37 until his death in 1943, NHL President Frank Calder purchased a trophy each year to be given permanently to the NHL’s outstanding rookie. After Calder’s death, the League presented the Calder Trophy in his memory. 


April 16, 2011

Doug MacLean on Toronto Radio: Panthers Management is "A Joke"

Doug I know this is a few days old, but I just got the chance to listen to Pete DeBoer's interview on Toronto's Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 from Monday. The link will take you to the full interview. Definitely worth the time.

Pete called in and talked to old pal Doug MacLean and co-host Nick Kypreos and Doug sure wasn't using kid gloves when talking about his Panthers. 

MacLean, some of you may remember, used to coach the Panthers. 

He's still the only coach to win a playoff game -- much less a series -- with the Panthers in franchise history.

That's as painful to write as it is to read.

Anyway, Doug still has a place down here so he follows the travails of the Panthers as much as anyone.

Like most, he sure don't like what he sees. 

Said Doug on Pete's chances to stick around after the trade deadline: "Good grief. I watched a lot of nights and didn't know any of your players.''

And on Panthers management. (I do not think he's talking about Dale Tallon nor Mike Santos):

"I hear this a lot down there: 'The hockey side has to do the job. We're doing everything we can on the business side.' I say that's complete BS.

"Jacques Martin brought you in and he got out the minute he could, saw a good position and I don't blame him for that.

"Until they fix the whole operation, top to bottom, they have no chance at having any success. I've followed it as close as anyone the past 15 years and it is a joke.''

Harsh words.

Pete repeated some of the words he had for us and for Sid Rosenberg on WQAM, saying he agrees with the way Dale Tallon wants to rebuild the franchise. 

"We weren't good enough to win,'' DeBoer said regarding the Florida Panthers fire sale at the deadline.

"If they wanted to spend, add to get into the playoffs, it may have happened. We were kind of knocking on the door.

"The reality is, this was a team that may have squeaked into the playoffs and then been done. Dale wants to contend and win championships. Even if we added something, we weren't that team. We knew there would be a lot of long nights over the final 20 nights.''

And on the state of the Panthers during his tenure here: 

"Definitely not a lot of stability. I had three different ownership situations, three different GMs. And I don't have a bad word to say about any of them. They treated me first class. But the instability sure didn't help.

"We're a non traditional market down here. Have to win to get people to come. To win, have to spend some money and get some players. It's a vicious cycle.''

Doug then asked how many pieces the Panthers truly have to compete. This was something I spoke with Pete about before he got the ax here. Pete basically told me to look at Pittsburgh minus Sidney and Malkin. The Penguins still have top players. He asked if I saw many of those kind of guys on the Panthers. You don't. 

"When I got here, took the job, the sell was we're building around Bouwmeester, Horton, Booth, Weiss that group of guys. Jokinen at the time.

"Now it's a full 360. I think the pieces are from last year's draft, this year's draft. With all due respect to Booth and Weiss, there's just not enough depth to lead you to the Stanley Cup. I think the plan, my understanding of it, the pieces you're talking about leading this team out of the woods are the draft picks. Three first rounders last year, the picks this year. That's a long way off.''

Anyone fired up about next season?

Heat play the Sixers Monday at War Memorial. Bring the kids.

Miami Heat win Game 1, beat Philadelphia Sixers 97-89


Miami didn't get much from its Big 3 as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for just seven points as the 76ers went into the second quarter holding a 12 point lead. Miami never held a lead in the opening frame. James' scored all three of his points off free throws.

Lowlight: Philadelphia held a 20-8 point lead midway through the first as Miami's trio of Wade, James and Bosh had a combined two points (from Bosh) to that point.


The Heat finally woke up and fired up the white-clad crowd by going on a 20-7 run over a span of 6:29 to start the second quarter. Wade's basket with 4:16 left gave Miami a 43-38 lead and got the Big 3 going a bit. Wade, Bosh and James were a combined 4-of-13 from the field before that shot. Mario Chalmer's 3-points off a sweet feed from Wade with 5:31 left gave Miami a 39-38 lead – the Heat's first lead of the game. 

Highlight: Bosh's tip-in with 29.4 seconds remaining left after Wade failed to get the ball through on his attempt from down low were the final points of the half. Bosh ended with 10 points in the opening half. 


The Sixers came into the third down five and didn't help themselves out as they trailed by 16 with 90 1:30 left in the quarter as they had scored 13 points off 27 percent shooting. But Lou Williams hit a 3-pointer with 37.4 seconds left then closed out with a basket with 3.5 remaining to keep Philadelphia in the game going into the fourth down 11.

Highlight: There weren't many for James in the third as he ended with just four points. But with 17.3 seconds left, James drove the lane, got turned as he was fouled and just barely missed a shot from behind his head. 


The Sixers turned a fairly pedestrian game into something exciting down the stretch as they went on a run as the Heat went cold. Thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Jrue Holiday, the Sixers pulled to within three points with 3:58 left. With the Heat up one, Bosh hit a pair of free throws for a little breathing room, giving Miami its first points in a span of 4:40. 

Highlight: Wade made a running jumper after being fouled by Thaddeus Young with 1:34 remaining to give Miami a five-point lead. Wade missed the ensuing free throw, but the lead held up as the Sixers never came that close again.

April 13, 2011

Seeing the World (Or at least Slovakia)

WC Panthers winger Jack Skille will play for Team USA at the IIHF World Championships April 29-May 15 in Slovakia.

Winger David Booth and goaltender Scott Clemmensen are among the Florida Panthers who have said they will not participate.

Booth, who played in all 82 games for the Panthers this season, said he is playing through some injuries and needs a break.

Clemmensen, who played for Team USA the past two summers, will not be playing because of family commitments. Clemmensen and his wife Olivia are expecting their second child in the coming weeks.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said he would return and play for Russia, saying he enjoyed his experience last summer. Vokoun, who led Czech Republic to the Gold last summer, will not play because of his pending free agency.

Former coach Pete DeBoer will be an assistant for Team Canada.

-- Panthers equipment manager Chris Scoppetto will be going to Worlds as well working with Skille and Team USA.


Florida Panthers Summer MusicFest Continues with Frank Drebin, Enrico Pallazzo and Randy Newman

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Are Here ... With Fearless, Completely Accurate Predictions




Caps2nd (1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers

-- Season Series: Rangers won 3-1 including past meeting 6-0 on Feb. 25.

-- Recent postseason history: The Capitals are the east's top seed for the second consecutive season. Washington was upset by No. 8 Montreal in the opening round last year. The Rangers missed the playoffs last season and was knocked out of the first round by Washington in 2009. New York hasn't been to the east finals since losing to Philadelphia in 1997.

-- What to Watch: It appeared the Capitals were going to be stuck as a middle seed before they took off and caught not only Tampa Bay in the Southeast, but Philadelphia in the conference race. The Capitals aren't scoring as much as usual, but are better on defense. Nyr2nd Although Washington employs three goalies, there is no doubt who runs the show in New York. Henrik Lundqvist had another exceptional season and knows he can beat the Caps. New York outscored Washington 15-1 in its three wins against the Caps this season.

-- Prediction: Capitals in 6.

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres

Flyers -- Season Series: Split the four games with Buffalo winning the final two including 4-3 on April 8.

-- Recent postseason history: The Flyers snuck into the playoffs as the seventh seed last year and advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Buffalo returned to the playoffs after a two-year absence last year and were knocked out by the Bruins.

-- What to Watch: The Sabres stormed into the postseason by winning 16 of their final 24 games and are led by Team USA goalie Ryan Miller. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has been Sabres sleepwalking a bit, winning just seven of its final 20. Philadelphia slipped to the second overall seed during that time. Buffalo definitely has the goaltending edge as the Flyers roll out rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, but Philadelphia is battle tested. This should be a fun series.

-- Prediction: Flyers in 6.

(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens

-- Season Series: Montreal won four of the six Horton games although Boston won the final meeting 7-0 on March 24.

-- Recent postseason history: The Bruins looked to have a berth in the 2010 conference finals sewn up before Philadelphia stormed back from an 0-3 deficit to win. Montreal charged through the east last year as the eighth seed before losing to the Flyers in the east finals.

-- What to Watch: Jm This should be a lot of fun. These two teams have a long rivalry as Original Six franchises, although its warmed up of late. On Feb. 10, the two teams played through a brawl-filled game. Then, last month, Boston d-man Zdeno Chara slammed Max Pacioretty up along the boards. This is the third time in four postseasons the two have met.

-- Prediction: Canadiens in 7.

PENS (4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

-- Season Series: Teams split the four game series with Tampa Bay winning final game 2-1 on March 31.

-- Recent postseason history: The Penguins beat Ottawa in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs only to lose in seven to the Canadiens in the east semifinals. The Lightning are making its first appearance in the postseason since 2007. Tampa Bay hasn't been out of the first round since winning it all in 2004.

-- What to Watch: Sidney Crosby ha Lightningnewlogo s been cleared to begin receiving contact in practice and his return could be just what the Penguins need to knock off a Lightning team that had plenty of ups and downs this season. Tampa Bay has experience in goal with Dwayne Roloson leading Edmonton to the Finals in 2006, but the Lightning need to solve Marc-Andre Fleury.

-- Prediction: Penguins in 7.


Vancouver (1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Blackhawks

-- Season Series: Split the four game series with Vancouver winning the final two including a 4-2 victory on Feb. 4.

-- Recent postseason history: Vancouver has been eliminated from the playoffs in each of the past two seasons by the Blackhawks, losing in the semifinals last year. The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champions and have reached the Western Conference finals in each of the past two seasons.

-- What to Watch: Even though Hawksring Chicago has knocked off Vancouver in each of the past two seasons, the Canucks appear to be poised to make some noise this postseason. The Sedin twins – Henrik and Daniel – have four goals and nine points between them in four games against Chicago this season. Had Dallas beaten Minnesota in Sunday's season finale, we would be talking about the Stars here and not the defending champs.

-- Prediction: Canucks in 7.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings

Sharklogo -- Season Series: Split four-game series with Sharks winning final meeting 6-1 on April 4.

-- Recent postseason history: San Jose advanced to the Western Conference finals last season but were knocked off by the Blackhawks. The Kings made the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and were beaten by Vancouver in the opening round.

-- What to Watch: The Sharks have yet to reach the Cup Finals, but their goalie has, as San Jose signed former Blackhawks backstop Antti Niemi in the offseason. With Niemi and the Sharks' offense going, Kings San Jose is tough to beat. That said, the Kings are a string bunch although the loss of Anze Kopitar will hurt. The Kings battled Vancouver last year, but may not have enough against these Sharks.

-- Prediction: Sharks in 6.

(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes

Detroit -- Season Series: Split the four game series with Phoenix winning the previous meeting 5-4 in a shootout on March 5.

-- Recent postseason history: The Coyotes returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 last season and were beaten by Detroit in 7. The franchise hasn't won a Jets playoff series since the Winnipeg Jets beat Calgary in 1997. Detroit lost to San Jose in the second round last year, missing the Western Conference finals for the first time in four years. The Wings won the Cup in 2008 then lost to Pittsburgh in the 2009 Finals.

-- What to Watch: Detroit is definitely getting up there in age and the Coyotes are poised for big things. Shane Doan missed the final four games in last year's series against the Wings and will be a key player this time around.  Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard has been strong against Phoenix this season, but without Henrik Zetterberg for the first few games, Detroit could struggle despite being at home. If Johan Franzen comes back to postseason form, the Wings should escape.

-- Prediction: Red Wings in 7.

(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators

Ducks -- Season Series: Nashville won three of four including a 5-4 decision on March 24.

-- Recent postseason history: Anaheim is in the playoffs again after missing out in 2010. The Predators are still waiting for their first postseason series win after being knocked out by Chicago in a tough opening round series last year.

-- What to Watch: The Ducks are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, winning 15 of the final 20 to snare home ice in the opening round. The Predators are going to have their hands full trying to slow down the troika of Corey Perry (50 goals), Ryan Getzlaf (57 assists) and Preds Bobby Ryan (34 goals) not to mention some of Anaheim's other top scorers (Teemu Selanne, Lubomir Visnovsky). But Pekka Rinne is one of the league's top goalies and the Preds are tough to beat in Music City, USA.

-- Prediction: Ducks in 7.

April 12, 2011

No Change for Florida Panthers, Will Pick Third at NHL Draft for Second Straight Year

Dalypanthers The Panthers will hold the third overall pick in the June draft after failing to move up in the draft lottery held Tuesday night in Toronto.

The Panthers, represented by alternate governor Bill Torrey, had a 14.2 percent chance to move up to the top spot. The Edmonton Oilers will have the top pick for the second straight year.

Florida had won the lottery three times – and never used the top pick. In 1998, Florida won the top pick yet had previously traded its first round pick to San Jose for Viktor Kozlov. Tampa Bay received Florida's pick from the Sharks and took franchise player Vinny Lecavalier.

2011draft The Panthers traded the top pick in 2002 and 2003 after winning the lottery and selected Nathan Horton and Jay Bouwmeester respectively. In 2002, Columbus selected perennial All-Star Rick Nash with Florida's pick; Pittsburgh took goalie Marc-Andre Fleury the following year.

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011: Pittsburgh Penguins Make It Work Without Crosby, Malkin ... Resurgent Lightning Back in Playoffs


Few would have predicted the Pittsburgh Penguins would be in the position they are had it been known that star Sidney Crosby would have only played in 41 games and Evgeni Malkin just two more.

Crosby still ended up leading Pittsburgh in scoring despite being out since January after suffering a concussion. Crosby is skating and is expected to return sometime during the Penguins' opening round series against the Lightning.

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin Wednesday night with the Lightning visiting Pittsburgh for the first postseason game at Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins have enjoyed success despite missing their two biggest offensive stars this season – but Crosby will be welcomed with open arms once he's ready to go. Despite playing just half the season, Crosby's 32 goals was nine more than Chris Kunitz and his 66 points were 16 more than Kris Letang for the team lead this season.

"To me," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said, “he's playing. Period."

Many wrote off the Penguins once Malkin joined Crosby on the long term disabled list Lightningnewlogo in early February after tearing two liniments in his right knee. But the Penguins soldiered on, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference after chasing down the eventual Atlantic Division champion Flyers. The two Keystone State rivals ended tied with 106 points (one being top seeded Washington) with Philadelphia winning the tiebreaker to earn the No. 2 seed in the east.

Based on the Penguins ability to continue winning despite mounting injuries coach Dan Bylsma has a large groundswell of support for coach of the year honors. “More than half of our team has had a taste of Pittsburgh this year,'' center Ryan Craig told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Craig is the captain for the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and played in six games with Pittsburgh.

Even though Bylsma is getting plenty of praise, he has no problem passing along credit to the stellar play of goalie Marc-Andre  Fleury.

“He's been consistent and that's probably the reason why he's been so good for us this year,'' Bylsma said on a recent stop in South Florida. “He's always had a propensity to get real hot, make those big saves. But his consistency all year has given us the confidence to win games no matter who is in the lineup. We believe we're a good team despite the adversity and the injuries. I think that has pushed him to another level this year. He's always had a swagger, that smile or smirk under the mask.''

With Crosby and Malkin out, Pittsburgh has had to win close games night after night. The Penguins power play finished 25th in the league although the team's penalty kill finished with the best success rate of the 30 teams.

Although Fleury isn't expected to win the Vezina Trophy for the league's top netminder, he may just win the league's MVP award. NBC announcer and former Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk had plenty of praise for Fleury saying “you better be talking about him as an MVP. .-.-.Fleury has proven to be a top-notch goaltender. He had a terrific year. He's going to see a lot of pucks [against the Lightning].''

When the Penguins played host to the Panthers on March 27, Fleury was honored as his team's top player on a vote by his teammates.

“For a big part of the season, [Fleury] has been one of the best goalies in the league if not the best,'' Max Talbot said. “For us, without our big guns out there, he's a very important part of our team. He's been closing the door for us, winning games for us. Give credit to our defenseman as well. Our whole defensive game has improved. But he's the reason why we're fourth in the east and had a chance at first. He's been our best player for sure.''

PENS Fleury, who helped lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009, started off very slow, going 1-6-0 with a 3.54 GAA and a .853 save percentage. He said he was humbled by being honored by his teammates and says had other teammates not stepped up, they wouldn't be where they're at. The Pens won eight of their final 10 heading into the playoffs.

“We have some experience, have been in the playoffs before,'' Fleury said. “I think this adversity we've faced this season makes us a better team.''

Like Olczyk said, Fleury will be tested by the Lightning in this series. The resurgent Lightning won seven of its final eight games to close the regular season, spoiling Carolina's postseason bid by beating the Hurricanes 6-2 in Raleigh on Saturday night.

“They basically won a playoff game against Carolina,'' Versus analyst Keith Jones said. “That was a Game 7 for Carolina and Tampa stepped up and beat them, sent them packing. They've been in a big situation heading into the playoffs. I like the way they settled down and righted the ship before the playoffs arrived. Watch out for Tampa Bay. I think they'll give Pittsburgh all they can handle.''

Odds Are You Like Betting on the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Casino Our good friends at bodog.com sent us over some numbers pertaining to the Stanley Cup Finals.

They call them "odds" but I don't know what to make of them.

As always, these "odds" should be used for entertainment purposes only.

Good luck!


Stanley Cup and Conference Odds

Odds to win the 2011 Stanley Cup     

Vancouver Canucks                   3/1
Washington Capitals                  11/2
San Jose Sharks                       7/1
Philadelphia Flyers                     8/1
Boston Bruins                            17/2
Detroit Red Wings                      9/1
Pittsburgh Penguins                   11/1
Anaheim Ducks                         20/1
Tampa Bay Lightning                  20/1
Chicago Blackhawks                  22/1
Buffalo Sabres                           25/1
Los Angeles Kings                     30/1
Montreal Canadiens                   30/1
Nashville Predators                    30/1

Phoenix Coyotes                       30/1
New York Rangers                     35/1

Odds to win the 2011 Eastern Conference     

Washington Capitals                  9/4
Philadelphia Flyers                     4/1
Boston Bruins                            9/2
Pittsburgh Penguins                   9/2
Tampa Bay Lightning                  9/1
Buffalo Sabres                           14/1
Montreal Canadiens                   15/1
New York Rangers                     16/1

Odds to win the 2011 Western Conference    

Vancouver Canucks                   7/5
San Jose Sharks                       7/2
Detroit Red Wings                      9/2
Anaheim Ducks                         9/1
Chicago Blackhawks                  12/1
Nashville Predators                    15/1
Los Angeles Kings                     16/1
Phoenix Coyotes                       16/1

2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs - What will be the Matchup in the Stanley Cup Final?

Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks                   13/2
Washington Capitals vs. San Jose Sharks                       12/1
Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings                      16/1
Washington Capitals vs. Anaheim Ducks                         30/1
Washington Capitals vs. Nashville Predators                    50/1
Washington Capitals vs. Phoenix Coyotes                       50/1
Washington Capitals vs. Los Angeles Kings                     50/1
Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks                  40/1

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Vancouver Canucks                      11/1
Philadelphia Flyers vs. San Jose Sharks                          20/1
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Detroit Red Wings                        25/1
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Anaheim Ducks                            45/1
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Nashville Predators                       75/1
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Phoenix Coyotes                          80/1
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Los Angeles Kings                       80/1
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks                    60/1

Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks                             12/1
Boston Bruins vs. San Jose Sharks                                 22/1
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings                               28/1
Boston Bruins vs. Anaheim Ducks                                   50/1
Boston Bruins vs. Nashville Predators                              80/1
Boston Bruins vs. Phoenix Coyotes                                 85/1
Boston Bruins vs. Los Angeles Kings                              85/1
Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks                           65/1

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Vancouver Canucks                    11/1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. San Jose Sharks                        20/1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings                      25/1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Anaheim Ducks                          45/1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Nashville Predators                     75/1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Phoenix Coyotes                        80/1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Los Angeles Kings                      80/1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks                   60/1

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Vancouver Canucks                    22/1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. San Jose Sharks                      40/1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings                     50/1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Anaheim Ducks                         90/1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Nashville Predators                    150/1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Phoenix Coyotes                       150/1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Los Angeles Kings                    150/1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Chicago Blackhawks                120/1

Montreal Canadiens vs. Vancouver Canucks                     35/1
Montreal Canadiens vs. San Jose Sharks                         65/1
Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings                       80/1
Montreal Canadiens vs. Anaheim Ducks                          150/1
Montreal Canadiens vs. Nashville Predators                      225/1
Montreal Canadiens vs. Phoenix Coyotes                         225/1
Montreal Canadiens vs. Los Angeles Kings                      250/1
Montreal Canadiens vs. Chicago Blackhawks                   200/1

Buffalo Sabres vs. Vancouver Canucks                            35/1
Buffalo Sabres vs. San Jose Sharks                                60/1
Buffalo Sabres vs. Detroit Red Wings                               80/1
Buffalo Sabres vs. Anaheim Ducks                                  150/1
Buffalo Sabres vs. Nashville Predators                             225/1
Buffalo Sabres vs. Phoenix Coyotes                                225/1
Buffalo Sabres vs. Los Angeles Kings                              250/1
Buffalo Sabres vs. Chicago Blackhawks                           175/1

New York Rangers vs. Vancouver Canucks                      40/1
New York Rangers vs. San Jose Sharks                          70/1
New York Rangers vs. Detroit Red Wings                         90/1
New York Rangers vs. Anaheim Ducks                            150/1
New York Rangers vs. Nashville Predators                       250/1
New York Rangers vs. Phoenix Coyotes                          250/1
New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings                        275/1
New York Rangers vs. Chicago Blackhawks                     200/1

2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP?

Alex Ovechkin (WAS)                 10/1
Daniel Sedin (VAN)                    10/1
Henrik Sedin (VAN)                    10/1
Roberto Luongo (VAN)                15/1
Tim Thomas (BOS)                    25/1
Sidney Crosby (PIT)                   25/1
Patrick Marleau (SJ)                   25/1
Joe Thornton (SJ)                       25/1
Pavel Datsyuk (DET)                  25/1
Jeff Carter (PHI)                         30/1
Mike Richards (PHI)                   30/1
Dany Heatley (SJ)                      30/1
Alexander Semin (WAS)             35/1
Milan Lucic (BOS)                      35/1
Henrik Zetterberg (DET)              35/1
Nicklas Backstrom (WAS)          40/1
Claude Giroux (PHI)                   40/1
Danny Briere (PHI)                     40/1
David Krejci (BOS)                     40/1
Jordan Staal (PIT)                      40/1
Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)              40/1
Ryan Miller (BUF)                      50/1
Antti Niemi (SJ)                         50/1
Jimmy Howard (DET)                  50/1
Corey Perry (ANA)                     50/1
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)                    50/1
Steven Stamkos (TB)                 55/1
Zdeno Chara (BOS)                    60/1
Carey Price (MTL)                      60/1
Nicklas Lidstrom (DET)               60/1
Ilya Bryzgalov (PHO)                  60/1
Martin St Louis (TB)                   65/1
Patrick Kane (CHI)                     65/1
Jonathan Toews (CHI)                 65/1
Michal Neuvirth (WAS)               70/1
Shane Doan (PHO)                    70/1
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)               75/1
Thomas Vanek (BUF)                 75/1
Pekka Rinne (NAS)                    75/1
Marian Gaborik  (NYR)               90/1
Dwayne Roloson (TB)                 100/1
Ryan Kesler (VAN)                     100/1
Dustin Brown (LAK)                    100/1
Jonathan Quick (LAK)                100/1
Teemu Selanne (ANA)                100/1
Tomas Plekanec (MTL)               125/1
Patrick Sharp (CHI)                    125/1
Marian Hossa (CHI)                    125/1
Dustin Penner (LAK)                  125/1
Drew Doughty (LAK)                   125/1
Shea Weber (NAS)                    125/1
Drew Stafford (BUF)                   150/1
Michael Cammalleri (MTL)          150/1
Brian Gionta (MTL)                     150/1
Vincent Lecavalier (TB)               150/1
Patric Hornqvist (NAS)                150/1
Sergei Kostitsyn (NAS)              150/1
Brandon Dubinsky (NYR)            200/1
Keith Yandle (PHO)                    200/1

First Round Series Prices

Washington Capitals                   -240
New York Rangers                     +200

Philadelphia Flyers                     -155
Buffalo Sabres                           +135

Boston Bruins                            -200
Montreal Canadiens                   +170

Pittsburgh Penguins                    -170
Tampa Bay Lightning                  +150

Vancouver Canucks                    -220
Chicago Blackhawks                  +180

San Jose Sharks                        -250
Los Angeles Kings                     +210

Detroit Red Wings                       -200
Phoenix Coyotes                       +170

Anaheim Ducks                          -145
Nashville Predators                    +125

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