Nine games left. Have you committed to memory the specifics of the remaining 9 games in the Carolina Hurricanes regular season? If they fail to win at least six of these games and the opponents of the Buffalo Sabres don't succeed in stealing a few points to help the Canes out, we may be done with NHL hockey in Raleigh until October.
It's crunch time and, by all accounts, strategies for managing the pressure seem to be as much of a priority for the coaches and players as solving the power play woes. While you're drumming your fingers waiting for the start of the first half of the home-and-home vs the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night, I've got some links and videos of what they're saying here and what's up elsewhere around the League.
Audio from Paul Maurice, post practice Thursday before heading to Tampa, talking about McBain's rehab, Cam Ward's stamina, Chad LaRose's energy, Eric Staal's readiness, and what he's expecting from the Bolts this weekend.
Mo is also talking about dressing seven defensemen for one game this weekend because McBain Set for Return - Paul Branecky, Tracking the Storm Blog It would appear that Jamie McBain is a quick healer.
Is this new haircut about changing mojo from the veteran blueliner who is goal-less in the last 11 games? Canes Now - Staal, McBain ready to play against Bolts Joe Corvo, with a new mohawk look, is ready to go.
A follow up with Drayson Bowman, out late today: Canes Now - Bowman hoping for a Tampa Bay repeat Bowman, as would be expected, remembers much about scoring his first goal. The Canes, he said, were on a power play and he was working with forwards Zach Boychuk and Brandon Sutter -- an interesting thought in itself.
After the jump, more on the Canes D, audio from Jeff Skinner and video with Tuomo Ruutu, previewing the Canes prospects in the NCAA Championships that kickoff tomorrow, and a collection of goalie stories to add to their unique lore.
Recent profiles of less than familiar faces
Both Jay Harrison and Bryan Allen were the focus in a print story from earlier this week. Defensemen find new life on Canes - NewsObserver.com Two years ago, Jay Harrison was playing professional hockey in Switzerland, wondering if he had a future in the NHL.
The latest Cane to wear No. 33 is turning heads. Joslin Getting Big Minutes on Blue Line - TTS Blog A little over a week ago, Derek Joslin wasn’t playing. Now, he’s getting about all the minutes he can handle.
This was about a week ago: Bowman Showing More Confidence in Second Stint with Canes - TTS Blog In his second stint with the Carolina Hurricanes this season, Drayson Bowman has shown an increased confidence level. "In one year’s time, his skating stride and his strength has improved greatly," Maurice said. "I think it’s just a matter of time before he scores fairly consistently in this league."
Media appearances by the good guys
From yesterday afternoon as Jeff Skinner called up north to his hometown Toronto to talk about this time of year in the NHL, and what's changed about him since October. The word "Calder" is also mentioned. Jeff Skinner on HNIC Radio 3/23/11 [about 7 minutes.]
Chad LaRose on NHLLive Wednesday LaRose calls in with some thoughtful answers about what it's like in the Canes room these days. He also attempts his best Chuck Kaiton impression. Thoughts? [about 9 minutes]
From FoxSports Carolinas, here is another classic conversation with the happiest, kindest and gentlest player on the team, Tuomo Ruutu, 1st Intermission, 2011-03-22 (Hurricanes vs. Senators)
Last interview this week: here is Skinner's post-game call-in following the OT win over the New York Islanders Friday night. Y'know, the one where Skinner contributed a goal and one gorgeous helper on Joni Pitkanen's HUGE overtime game winner : Jeff Skinner on NHL on the Fly (3/18/11)
Scouting the competition down the stretch
The Bolts are struggling on many fronts, with a record of just 2-5-4 so far in the month of March and facing a challenge for 5th place from the resurgent Montreal Canadiens. They are also the Canes' opponent for 3 of the remaining 9 games. Some thoughts from a blogger watching the situation closely: Beasts of the Southeast : Trouble With Close Games Will Trouble Tampa Come Playoff Time
Ryan Malone is still a week out, though Steve Downie is likely to return this weekend vs the Hurricanes. After the lousy run in March, Boucher sees brighter days soon for Bolts - NHL Insider
"I would say Malone is a huge, huge miss for us because he was on the power play and probably our most effective guy on the power play," Boucher said. "He was on the top two lines. He's a big guy, smart, and he's able to give us more physicality. We've been missing this guy for a while -- seems like forever."
Our friends at Preds on the Glass have updated their illustrated schedule for the remaining games of all Eastern Conference teams. Handy if you're obsessively trying to work through various scenarios on how the Canes can get this done.
Another concise summary of the injuries all 15 Eastern Conference teams are dealing with. SI.com's Red Light : Injury impact report: Eastern Conference
Around the league
The head coach of the Boston Bruins is interviewed by the Canadiens' beatwriter at the Montreal Gazette prior to tonight's re-match at the Garden. Interesting conversation for your perusal: 'It takes two to tango': Julien
This sure seems like a wise decision to me: Deal dead for NHL to open 2011-12 season in Russia - Puck Daddy
But there may be other reasons for the KHL to be concerned. This is what Bill Daly told us today: "I will also confirm that there was and remains some concern about scheduling exhibitions between NHL and KHL Clubs because of our experience in St. Petersburg last year. Those concerns alone will not necessarily preclude us from considering the possibility of scheduling games in Russia in the future."
Because who doesn't like a good puck-list:
- The Hockey News: THN.com Top 10: Most hated NHL players
- Five Teams to Fear Next Year - Versus (from their newest writer, Puck the Media's Steve Lepore)
Spotlight on the Rookies
The rookie of the year case for Islanders’ Michael Grabner - Puck Daddy includes this observation from Greg Wyshynski:
We still think Skinner is the favorite; the hype was deafening at the All-Star Game where many of the voters were assembled, and he's still leading the League in points during a time when voting starts to happen. (There's an element of king-making at play here, too; like a Best New Artist Grammy, the voters like to bestow the honor of future stars with the potential of a Jeff Skinner.)
Another take: Breaking Down The NHL's Calder Trophy Race - SBNation.com Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, and Michael Grabner all have a case to win the NHL's Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Who makes the best argument? And will Chicago's Corey Crawford crash the party?
We are so familiar with our own new kid on the block, thought you might enjoy these two recent Q&A's with a couple other famous rookies to compare their experiences breaking into the NHL.
- Red Light District: Conversation with Tyler Seguin
- Red Light District: Conversation with Blake Geoffrion
News from Charlotte
If you thought the Checkers' charitable giving was only working for that amazing kid from Albany, you ought to read this. Makes me proud to have this group as part of the Carolina Hockey family. The American Hockey League | Unlikely union helps "Lost Boy" give back
A focus piece on a defenseman who is a favorite down Mecklenburg way. FitzGerald tops penalty box for Checkers - CharlotteObserver.com He's a hard-checking defenseman who bangs bodies in front of the net, sweeps the puck aside and, when necessary, drops his gloves to come to the aid of his Charlotte Checkers teammates.
The push for the AHL playoffs and looking in on another Checker's defenseman working his way back into the system, as Bobby Sanguinetti finally returned to action this week. In the System: Sanguinetti Back for Stretch Drive Third place in the AHL's East Division is up for grabs in the final weeks of the season.
Prospects in their Playoffs
NCAA (Brian Dumoulin and Justin Faulk)
Here's the simple way to keep up with the brackets and the schedule of games: Men's Ice Hockey Division I Championship - NCAA.com.
Plus profiles of the teams that include the Canes two players competing, Brian Dumoulin and Justin Faulk:
Brian Dumoulin - [Boston College] When you think of ever-dominant BC, you tend to think about players like Cam Atkinson, Chris Kreider, and Brian Gibbons, but it's Dumoulin who may have made some of the biggest contributions this season, and may have the most stellar pro career in his future. Dumoulin, who took a break from the Eagles in December to shore up the blue line for Team USA in the World Junior Championships, leads Hockey East in defenseman scoring with 26 assists and 2 goals. His assist total also vaults him to 3rd in overall scoring for the explosive Eagles. His teammates talk about his hockey smarts as the key to his success on both sides of the puck.
From the East Regional, which includes the return of Minnesota Duluth for the first time since 2004, a few previews.
Inside College Hockey | East Regional NCAA Tournament Capsules Faulk's 27 points are the second most by a freshman defenseman in UMD history, surpassed only by Tom Kurvers' (30) in 1980-81.
To watch on TV or at least set your DVR, you can turn to this post: Your NCAA Tournament TV Schedule " Puck The Media. I'm also keeping the Canes Country Calendar updated on both these teams as the tournament progresses.
Ontario Hockey League (Justin Shugg)
While Austin Levi's Plymouth Whalers are preparing to take on the Kitchener Rangers, it's the Mississauga Majors and their leading scorer, Justin Shugg, that's generating a lot of interest.
King on OHL: Majors primed for a run - sportsnet.ca Taking a look at the Majors' chances as the Ontario Hockey League playoffs are set to begin.
"I think we have a deep club and we’re all accountable here," says Justin Shugg, who had a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Barrie Colts to wind up the regular season. "We should be able to go deep enough with the team we have and win the championship," continued Shugg, who finished the season as Mississauga’s top goal scorer (41) and point-getter (87).
The Majors forward has been overshadowed his last two seasons by players like NHL success Taylor Hall and NHL bound Ryan Ellis. He also is looking to three-peat a Memorial Cup and be one of the few players in junior hockey history to complete it.
"At Windsor we had a great team," Shugg said after the Majors last game on Sunday afternoon when they faced rivals Barrie Colts. "Now there's a lot of pressure and I have to help lead my team.
Just one story, but didn't want you to miss it: On Frozen Pond - "Ryan Carter making an Impression" When Ryan Carter was traded to the Panthers a few days before the trade deadline, Carolina Hurricanes fans bemoaned the loss. "The Panthers are going to love that guy,'' one wrote on a Florida message board. So far, that's been true.
And I got nothing on Brett Carson. He was a healthy scratch for the umpteenth time last night as the Calgary Flames lost to the San Jose Sharks, the Flames' playoff hopes collapsing faster than you can say "fail". Since being claimed Feb 28, Carson has played in 2 games with a total TOI of just under 9 minutes.
On those of the Goaltending species
Islanders Dipietro dons Osgood’s old mask to protect shattered face, In Goal Magazine.com Rick Dipietro's returned to the Islanders Saturday wearing one of Chris Osgood's old masks from his time in New York in order to protect a surgically repaired face that needed four plates and several screws after the infamous fight with Pittsburgh's Brent Johnson.
This is too awesome: Adam Reasoner goes from Wall Street to Panthers goalie - Puck Daddy "I got the text and I got the missed phone call, so I knew something was up. My boss was like, 'It's slow on the trading floor. Opportunity of a lifetime. Get out there.' ... Had my [goalie gear] in the weight room, grabbed it and was here in a flash," Adam Reasoner told the Herald, adding that he told the cab driver to step on it.
Catching up with Bobby Goepfert who is backing up Justin Pogge in Charlotte (Mike Murphy hit is head on the ice during the game in WBS Sunday) while serving as the #1 netminder for the ECHL Florida Everblades near Naples. He is literally flying back and forth daily between the games for both of the teams this week. Goepfert is a twitter natural [@GeffMan47] who loves to write and hates to fly. Let him explain in his own inimitable way: TwitLonger: Put this in your Blog and read it. Part II of my flying adventure.
.....Also, about the blog. I prefer twitter because of the feedback and being open to chat about my tweets, but if I did, the name I came up with was, "Inside the Mind of a Serial Puckstopper". So you can refer to my twitlonger sessions as such. 5002 characters. Eat that Twitter.
Steve Dangle is a young blogger whose videos about the Toronto Maple Leafs and other aspects of Canadian hockey I've linked here before. After the Leaf's rookie James Reimer savior/goalie pitched his third shutout in Minnesota Monday, Dangle shared the secret of his success, entitled "Proof that Optimus Reim is indeed a Transformer":
Canes in the Community
An announcement of a special buying opportunity which will happen at the game Saturday night: All-Star Parking Banner Sale - This is your chance to take home a unique keepsake from the 2011 NHL All-Star weekend. You cannot buy these in the EYE or from a store in the mall. Not only will you be walking away with a banner, but also you will walk away with a warm feeling that you donated $250 to the Kids ‘N Community Foundation.
Last, as familiar as we are with Harris Teeter's promotional sandwiches designed by and named for the Hurricanes players, this weeks entry "The McBainwich" garnered national attention. As the lead story and photo in Puck Daddy's Puck Headlines Tuesday, I point you to the comments where Wysh has asked his readers to offer their descriptions of sandwiches that correlate to other well-known NHL players. There are over 100, but here's a couple to whet your appetite:
The James Wisniewski Sandwich - a 5 game footlong with extra cheez-whiz.
The Phil Kessel : Costs 50 bucks and a firstborn son, tastes fantastic on one end, makes you cry on the other
The Tie Domi - a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray.