Sports Outside the Beltway

Dallas Stars waive Goalie Alex Auld

With the recent acquisition of Kari Lehtonen, the team had one more netminder than they needed. From ESPN-

The Dallas Stars placed Alex Auld on waivers Wednesday and are content to go with Marty Turco and Kari Lehtonen in goal the rest of the season.Alex Auld

Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk acknowledged there’s little chance of trading Turco, who played well the last six games leading into the Olympic break. Turco is 4-1-1 with a 1.15 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage in that stretch.


Lehtonen, 26, has not played an NHL game since last April. The Stars traded for him earlier this month in an effort to fortify their goalie position going into next season. Lehtonen is a restricted free agent next season, while Turco and Auld are unrestricted free agents.

The Stars are one point out of the eighth and final playoff spot and have games every other day in March.

“We’ll work Kari in there because we have so many games,” Nieuwendyk said.

Auld is a journeyman Goalie who has played for six teams since 2006. That says enough about how good he is. Could a 7th team on the horizon? I’d say the chances are about 50-50. If Auld can’t find work in North America, he can always go to play in Europe.


Dallas Stars acquire Goalie Kari Lehtonen

His health issues and the emergence of Ondrej Pavelec have made the 2nd overall pick of the 2002 NHL draft expendable in Atlanta. From ESPN-

The Atlanta Thrashers have agreed to trade goalie Kari Lehtonen to the Stars, Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said on Tuesday.

The Thrashers will get prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy as well as a fourth-round draft pick in exchange. The 21-year-old Russian defenseman was the Stars’ first-round pick, 27th overall, in the 2006 NHL entry draft.

The deal was first reported by’s Pierre LeBrun.

Lehtonen will take a physical for the Stars on Wednesday.

Lehtonen is earning $3 million this season and is a restricted free agent July 1. The Thrashers deemed him expendable with the tandem of youngster Ondrej Pavelec, 22, and veteran Johan Hedberg, 36.

The acquisition of Lehtonen looks risky to me. That due to the fact he has had back surgery twice in the last year.

Dallas will likely need a new starting goaltender for the 2010-11 NHL season. Veteran Goalie Marty Turco is a unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.


Columbus Blue Jackets fire Coach Ken Hitchcock

It is less he took the NHL franchise to its first ever playoff appearance. From AP-

The Columbus Blue Jackets fired defensive-minded coach Ken Hitchcock on Wednesday, less than a year after the club made the postseason for the first time.Ken Hitchcock

Assistant coach Claude Noel was chosen to lead the team on an interim basis.

General manager Scott Howson announced the firing a day after the struggling Blue Jackets blew a 1-0 lead in a listless 5-1 loss at Colorado. Columbus stands 14th of the 15 teams in the Western Conference with a 22-27-9 record and 53 points.


The Blue Jackets play their next game at home against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

“You’re going to see some changes,” Noel said. “But I’m not going to reinvent the game.”

The 54-year-old Noel joined the Blue Jackets as an assistant coach in June 2007, after spending four seasons as the head coach of the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals. During that time, he led the club to a 183-94-12-31 regular-season record, three 100-point seasons and two West Division titles.

Built around star forward Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets made it to the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs a year ago before being swept by the Detroit Red Wings.


Hitchcock, who is also an assistant coach on Canada’s Olympic team, picked up his 500th career victory behind the Columbus bench a year ago, but the team appeared stagnant after a fast start this season.

The club got off to a 12-6-2 record through Nov. 19 but then wilted. The Jackets won just three of their next 24 games, spiraling out of the playoff picture. The defense sagged at times and even when last year’s rookie of the year, goalie Steve Mason, had a good game, the offense fell apart.

Mason, who was Rookie of the Year and Vezina finalist last year, has been nothing short of terrible this year. His 3.28 GAA and .890 are I think is the biggest reason the Blue Jackets have done so poorly this year.

I think Hitchcock will be a head coach again in the NHL. He led Dallas to a Stanley Cup Championship and had good records in Philadelphia and Columbus. Who knows maybe Florida will hire him when they fire Peter DeBoer. The Panthers certainly could do a lot worse than Hitch.


Sloppy Decisions- NY Rangers beat Dallas 5-2

A former Stars player got revenge against the team who released him. From AP-

Sean Avery exacted revenge on the Dallas Stars a year after they dumped him, scoring a goal and setting up three others in the New York Rangers’ 5-2 victory Wednesday night.Sean Avery

Avery’s stay with the Stars lasted only 23 games into a four-year, $15.5 million contract that he signed before last season after leaving the Rangers. The agitating forward quickly wore out his welcome in Dallas, and was suspended by the NHL in December after making crude comments about his former girlfriends dating other players. He never again played for the Stars, who waived him in February.

Avery was claimed three days later by the Rangers, with whom he finished the season after a minor league stint.


Avery hadn’t had as many as three points in a game since April 1, 2007. Four points matched a career high.

Avery last scored a point in a NHL game on November 23rd.

I didn’t really understand why Avery was released last year. He’s an idiot without a doubt, but he’s small potatoes compared to some of the thugs in the league. Todd Bertuzzi broke another player’s neck and he has no problem finding work. What’s insulting a player’s girlfriend compared to that?


NHL Western Conference at the mid point of the 2009-10 season

Due to the Winter Olympics, the NHL season is being being played at a more accelerated rate than normal. For instance, prior to Christmas week the Florida Panthers had four games in a week, five straight weeks in a row.

A NHL season is 82 games in length. Half of 82 is 41. Most teams are at 41 games or more

San Jose 42 games 27 wins 8 losses 7 overtime losses 61 points
Chicago 41 28 10 3 59
Colorado 43 24 13 6 54
Phoenix 43 25 14 4 54
Calgary 41 24 12 5 53
Nashville 42 25 14 3 53
Vancouver 42 25 16 1 51
Los Angeles 42 24 15 3 51

Detroit 41 21 14 6 48
Dallas 41 18 12 11 47
Minnesota 42 20 19 3 43
St. Louis 41 17 18 6 40
Anaheim 41 16 18 7 39
Columbus 43 15 19 9 39
Edmonton 42 16 22 4 36

Bold denotes all teams who would make the playoffs as of this minute.
The above standings are as of 10 a.m. on Sunday January 3rd.

Teams all but certain to make the playoffs- San Jose, Chicago
Team that won’t make the playoffs- Edmonton

I think Detroit will get their act back together and make the playoffs. Who do I think they will bump? I’m not sold on Phoenix yet. Los Angeles is the next most likely team to drop from the top 8

Columbus won’t make the playoffs unless Steve Mason returns to his form of last season. Dallas could also climb into the top 8. I won’t rule out Anaheim, Minnesota or St. Louis from making the playoffs but IMHO it will be a surprise if any of them do turn around their seasons.


Get the puck out of there- NHL wrap-ups as league takes break for Christmas

Where as the NBA will play games on Christmas day, the NHL won’t.(Florida announcer Billy Lindsay said there may be a clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement with players that rules out holiday games) Therefore there is no hockey on either December 24th or 25th. My favorite team, the Florida Panthers, doesn’t return to the ice till December 27th.

The NHL is almost at the half way point of 2009-10. With all 30 teams having played at least 35 games. Due to the Winter Olympics and the over two-week break the NHL takes as a result of it, the schedule is accelerated this year.

Here are some random notes on games played yesterday and how the NHL shapes up at the moment.

The New York Rangers beat the Florida Panthers 4-1. Now Florida, Montreal who defeated Carolina 5-1, and the Rangers are in a three-way tie for the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Since the Rangers have played the fewest games, for the moment they have tiebreaks.

Pittsburgh routs Ottawa 8-2. The big news out of this game is the injury to Senator Winger Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson, who is Ottawa’s leading scorer, is expected to be out for a couple of weeks.

Ilya Bryzgalov shuts out Anaheim 4-0 to extend Phoenix’s home winning streak to 8 games. The Coyotes are currently 4th in the Western Conference standings.Steve Mason

If Phoenix is one of the pleasant surprises of the 2009-10 NHL season, the play of Columbus Blue Jacket Goalie Steve Mason ranks as one of this year’s biggest disappointments. A almost 3.50 Goals against average was only helped slightly as Dallas beat Columbus last night 3-1.

Backup Chicago Goalie Anti Niemi notches his 4th shutout of the year as the Blackhawks beat Detroit 4-0.

While not shutting out Tampa Bay, Philadelphia’s 3rd Goaltender of the year Michael Leighton looks impressive as the Flyers beat the Lightning 5-2. Before the game was played, Philadelphia’s practice had to be cancelled due to sewage line problem in their locker room.

Merry Christmas NHL. I hope the season is as exciting (and unusual) post Christmas as it was before the holiday break.


Florida Panther Steven Reinprecht scores a hat trick in less than one period

The cats are up 3-0 with a little over three minutes to go in a game versus the Dallas Stars. Reinprecht has scored eight goals for Florida in 11 games this season. Two of his goals tonight came less than 30 seconds apart against Stars Goalie Alex Auld. Auld played for Florida during the 2006-07 season.

In nine previous NHL seasons he has never scored more than 19 goals. How or why is he suddenly playing like Alexander Ovechkin?

I will update this post either late tonight or early tomorrow morning. Brian Sutherby just scored a goal for Dallas to make the score 3-1.

Update- Dallas has scored another goal. This one after a Florida penalty. The score is 3-2 at the end of the first period.

2nd Update- Florida scored a 4th goal but this time Reinprecht assisted Jason Leopold. The bad news- Dallas once down 3-0 and 4-2 have come back to tie the game at 4 all.

3rd Update- The Panthers won 6-5 in a shootout. Rostislav Olesz scored Florida’s 5th goal and then the winner during the shootout.

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NHL suspends Anaheim Duck Evgeny Artyukhin for 3 games

He will forfeit almost $35,000 in salary also. From ESPN-

The NHL suspended Anahiem Ducks forward Evgeny Artyukhin for three games without pay Thursday for what the league called “a slew-footing incident” against Dallas Stars defenseman Matt Niskanen of Wednesday’s game.

Niskanen suffered a head injury that will keep him out of Thursday’s game against Los Angeles.

Since Artyukhin was suspended for two games in January 2009, he is considered a repeat offender. He’ll forfeit $34,756.11 in salary based on the number of games (82), rather than the number of days (193). The forfeited money goes into the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Artyukhin is a thug. Last year while playing with Tampa he brutally injured Florida Panther Ville Peltonen. I’m not a fan of NHL players who are sadists on ice skates.

Here’s the video of Artyukhin’s hit on Niskanen.


Nikolai Khabibulin notches his 300th career win

He is the 24th NHL Goalie to reach that mark. From AP-

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin came up big in the shootout to earn a milestone victory.

A game after his goaltending gaffe led to a loss in Edmonton’s home opener, Khabibulin became just the 24th goaltender in NHL history to hit the 300 career win mark.

He stopped all three shots in the shootout as Edmonton beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 on Tuesday night. Khabibulin had a far better night than Saturday, when he lost the handle on the puck with less than a minute, a miscue that led to a Calgary goal and 4-3 loss to the rival Flames.

“That was a hard way to lose that first game so it was good to see the team rewarded tonight,” said the 36-year-old free-agent acquisition. “It’s nice to hit that milestone but right now I am just happy that we won the game. I’ll try to build on it and make sure I don’t stop at 300, I guess.”

Alan Hemsky scored the only shootout goal.

Khabibulin, who played for Chicago, Tampa, and Winnipeg/Phoenix before coming to Edmonton, may be showing his age. IMHO I think he will be a backup goalie within 2 years, as long as a NHL team doesn’t let salary dictate who should be the starting goaltender. Like what is happening in Washington.


NHL player Teppo Numminen retires

He played in the NHL for 20 years with 4 different clubs and was one of the last remaining Winnipeg Jets to still be active. Enjoy your retirement Teppo.

Veteran defenseman Teppo Numminen will retire after 20 seasons in the NHL.

The 41-year-old Finn was an unrestricted free agent after playing the last four seasons in Buffalo Sabres. He also had stops in Winnipeg, Phoenix and Dallas during his career.

He made the announcement Wednesday, saying “playing hockey in the NHL and also for my country, Finland, was very enjoyable.”

The three-time All-Star had 17 points in 57 games for the Sabres last season. In 1,372 career games, he recorded 117 goals and 520 assists.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with and against the best players in the world for so many years,” Numminen said.

Numminen accumulated six medals in his international hockey career with Finland, including a silver at the 2006 Turin Olympics.


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