Sports Outside the Beltway

The Comeback I- Pittsburgh Penguins beat NY Islanders 5-0

Sid the kid played hockey last night like he hadn’t suffered a concussion that sidelined him for nearly a year. From AP-

Sidney Crosby is back.

The superstar center capped his return from concussion-like symptoms with two goals and two assists in his season debut as the Pittsburgh Penguins roared by the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.

Unleashing more than 10 months of frustration in 16 energetic minutes, Crosby put to rest all the questions that had popped up during his lengthy comeback.

Can he still skate? Can he take a hit? Can he play at his nearly peerless level? Can he mix it up?

The answer — for the first night anyway — is an emphatic yes.

“I don’t really have good words for it,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “That was special in a lot of ways.”

For no one more than Crosby, who celebrated his first goal in 328 days in decidedly un-Crosbylike fashion.

After a breathless sprint down the ice in which he weaved through the New York defense and beat rookie Anders Nilsson with a backhand, Crosby raised his arms in triumph and let out a roar punctuated by a hard-to-miss profanity.

He laughed while watching himself on replay and later apologized for his poor choice of words while admitting “I couldn’t hold that in.”

Crosby added assists on goals by Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik and capped his comeback with a second tally, a backhand that fluttered by Nilsson early in the third period to provide the final margin.

Steve Sullivan also scored for the Penguins while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots to collect his 21st career shutout, one behind franchise leader Tom Barrasso.

The Islanders aren’t a good team and their goaltending is horrible but still Crosby’s performance last night beat any expectations I had for him in his first game. Pittsburgh had 25 points and was leading the Eastern Conference without Crosby. With him back in strength, the Penguins just became a whole lot scarier.


Calgary Flames trade Olli Jokinen to the NY Rangers

From ESPN-

It took a while, but the proposed trade between the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames was finally completed late Monday night.

The Rangers shipped forwards Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik to the Flames in exchange for center Olli Jokinen and rugged winger Brandon Prust, a deal that was nearly consummated Sunday night but was delayed a day.

Kotalik’s limited no-trade clause and his ability to nix the deal was partly responsible for the holdup, but he ultimately agreed to the move, a source told

The trade call between both teams occurred following Calgary’s game Monday night.

Calgary is scheduled to play Florida on February 5th. Which would have enabled the Panthers all-time leading scorer(Jokinen) to make his first South Florida appearance since he was traded to Phoenix after the 2008-09 season. That has now been delayed till April when the Rangers come to town.

The Panthers beat writers have been hammering the Jokinen return to death IMHO. Does the Miami Herald’s George Richards or the Sun Sentinel’s Steve Gorten care to tell us that Jokinen will now be coming to Florida two times a year rather than once every two years? Jokinen is in the last year of his contract, but that isn’t pointed out but I don’t see mention of that or the chance of Jokinen coming to Florida two times a year if he should stay in New York.

As for the deal, both teams rid themselves of players who either couldn’t get along with their coach(Kotalik vs. the volatile John Tortorella) or a underachiever who isn’t supposedly giving a full effort(Jokinen). I think the Rangers come out better on this deal if they re-sign Jokinen but its a close thing. This was Jokinen’s third trade in less than two years and he is now working on his 6th NHL team.

George Richards in a blog post about this trade, made a huge sportswriting blunder.

Of course, Olli isn’t headed east to New York just yet. According to reports, he’s on his way to California to meet up with the Rangers in Los Angeles. Sports is funny this way, yes? Olli’s NHL career started with the Kings. They then traded him to the Panthers where he enjoyed his most professional success. Olli didn’t want to leave the Panthers, know that.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Jokinen is heading back to a NY area team for the second time in his career. He played a year with the NY Islanders. And how did the Florida Panthers acquire him?George Richards

June 24th 2000- Jokinen and Roberto Luongo traded to Florida in exchange for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish

Florida only got a great goaltender and its all-time leading scorer in the same trade. This was only the biggest transaction the team ever made that went the right way for the Cats. Forgetting this trade is like a New York City baseball reporter forgetting the New York Yankees got Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox.

Next thing George will be doing is tell us Jacques Martin didn’t coach in the NHL prior to Ottawa (like at least one other Panther beat writer did) and that Martin had great confidence in Craig Anderson!


NY Islander Jack Hillen to miss 6-8 weeks due to a broken jaw

Anaheim Duck Teemu Selanne recently suffered a similar injury. From AP-

New York Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen will miss six to eight weeks with a broken jaw and damaged teeth caused by a slap shot from Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin.

The Islanders said on Wednesday that the 24-year-old Hillen remained hospitalized following surgery late Tuesday night into the morning. Hillen was injured in the first period of New York’s 7-2 home loss on Tuesday and is expected to be discharged from the hospital on Thursday.

It is the second major injury to the Islanders’ defense corps that lost veteran Radek Martinek to a season-ending knee injury in November.

Hillen was helping to protect the net when he was struck in the face by the puck. It is just one of those freak accidents that happen in hockey.

The Islanders have a record of 23-22-8 for the season and are in the midst of a wild tussle for the last 3 Eastern Conference playoff berths. The loss of Hillen probably won’t affect the team too adversely. As long as no other major injuries happen.


NHL suspends Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski for 2 games

Sixteen years ago(1994) the Florida Panthers made him the first overall pick of the NHL Draft. From AP-

Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski has been suspended two games by the NHL for an elbow hit to the head of New York Islanders rookie John Tavares.

The suspension, announced Monday, is Jovanovski’s second of the season. He was also penalized two games on Dec. 9.

Jovanovski hit Tavares with 17 seconds left in the first period of the Coyotes’ 5-4 shootout loss on Saturday night, and was assessed a major for elbowing and a game misconduct.

Here’s the video.

No question in my mind about the hit being intentional. Hits to the head can be dangerous, and that’s why players like Jovanovski are suspended for them. He deserves the penalty handed down to him for his hit on John Tavares.


NHL Eastern 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

New Jersey 39 games 28 wins 10 losses 1 overtime loss 57 points
Buffalo 40 25 11 4 54
Washington 40 24 10 6 54
Pittsburgh 42 26 15 1 53
Boston 40 21 12 7 49
Ottawa 41 21 16 4 46
Montreal 43 21 19 3 45
NY Rangers 41 19 17 5 43

Tampa Bay 41 16 15 10 42
Philadelphia 40 19 18 3 41
Atlanta 40 18 17 5 41
NY Islanders 42 16 18 8 40
Florida 41 16 18 7 39
Toronto 41 14 18 9 37
Carolina 41 11 23 7 29

Bold denotes all teams who would make the playoffs as of this minute.
The above standings are as of 6 p.m. on Saturday January 2nd.

Teams all but certain to make the playoffs- Buffalo, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Washington
Team that won’t make the playoffs- Carolina

That’s hardly rocket science based on the above.

I will be greatly surprised if Florida, NY Islanders, or Toronto are playing in the post season. The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years and this will be no exception. How is a team that hasn’t won more than 3 games in a row since March 2008 supposed to get the momentum up for a playoff run?

Tampa Bay and Atlanta have been pleasant surprises this year. I’m still not convinced either team can make the playoffs. Particularly so in the case of the Lightning who are most impotent offensive teams in the league,(28th of 30 teams)

Honestly I think the teams who are currently 1-8 will all make the playoffs. There will be reshuffling but I think the 7 other teams each have enough liabililites that it will keep them out of the postseason.


Philadelphia keeps winning streak against NY Islanders in tact with 2-1 win

The Flyers have won 13 straight games against their Atlantic Division rival. From AP-

Jeff Carter snapped a tie in the second period and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the New York Islanders for the 13th straight time, 2-1 on Sunday night.Leighton

The Flyers, who have won three in a row overall for the first time in two months, haven’t lost to the Islanders since Feb. 12, 2008. It is the longest active streak in the NHL, one win more than Washington’s current 12-game run over Tampa Bay.

Danny Briere scored in the first period to give the Flyers their first lead and he nearly added another goal in the third, but that one was waved off. Video replay determined that Briere steered his own shot in with a skate after the puck hit goalie Martin Biron at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.

One key to Philadelphia’s win was the excellent goaltending by Michael Leighton. Leighton, who had been positively dreadful in goal till a week ago, has played very good his last two games.

As have the Flyers whose win and loss totals for the 2009-10 NHL are now identical. Players and teams can have momentum swings in the NHL. Fans and bloggers shouldn’t become either too excited or depressed by the results of just a few games though it is hard to not be cheerful after seeing your favorite team win a few games.

I can hardly wait for the Florida Panthers to win 12….cough 6…. cough 4 games in a row against any team. Or 4 games in a row period.


Philadelphia Flyers fire Coach John Stevens

A winning record doesn’t mean job security in the NHL. From AP-

The Philadelphia Flyers replaced coach John Stevens with Peter Laviolette on Friday after the team was shut out in consecutive games.

Laviolette led the Carolina Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup title in 2006. He was fired in December 2008 and was still under contract.

Laviolette, who also coached the New York Islanders for two seasons, was 167-130-30 in his four-plus seasons with Carolina.


The Flyers were expected to contend in the Eastern Conference this season. They were 13-11-1 for 27 points and out of the playoff picture entering Saturday’s game against Washington.

Philadelphia stands a better than a 50% chance of making the playoffs, but they aren’t better than the fifth or sixth best team in the Eastern Conference. Washington, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Boston at least are clearly better than the Flyers.

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said he lost confidence in Stevens. Two shutouts in a row is grounds for firing. How long before Philadelphia’s ownership loses confidence in Holmgren?


Keep firing- NY Islanders beat Toronto 4-3

Would you believe 62 shots on goal?

It’s been 18 years since a goalie had a night like Islanders netminder Dwayne Roloson.

Roloson turned aside 58 shots to help the New York Islanders beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime on Monday night. It was the most saves since Ron Tugnutt stopped 70 shots for Quebec on March 21, 1991 according to STATS.

“To me, it’s just another night, another game,” said the 40-year-old Roloson. “It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s one shot or 100 shots, I’ve got to do the same things, try to give my team a chance to win.”

The victory improved Roloson’s record to 2-0-2 on the lengthy trip, and 7-2-5 overall this season. The Islanders went 3-2-2 on the seven-game trip to improve to 9-8-7 in 2009-10, but they know they wouldn’t have been so successful if not for the tireless Roloson in net.


Roloson, who signed as an unrestricted free agent last summer, made several great saves — the most painful of which was No. 52, a hard shot from Mikhail Grabovski that hit him directly in the mask. It’s the kind of performance his new team has come to expect.

Craig Anderson, while still playing for the Florida Panthers, turned back 51 Islander shots in a 2007-08 NHL game. Anaheim Duck Goalie Jonas Hiller stopped the same amount of shots in a game last December. Only Anderson got a shutout.


NY Islander Defenseman Radek Martinek out for the year with a torn ACL

He suffered the injury in a game last night against the New Jersey Devils. From AP-

Oft-injured New York Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek is out for the season with a knee injury.

The 33-year-old Martinek tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Friday night in the third period of a 2-1 loss at New Jersey, the Islanders said on Saturday.

Martinek was helped off the ice with about 5:45 to play after he was hit hard against the boards in front of the Devils bench by Zach Parise.

The Islanders are thin at defenseman but a team relying on a player at Martinak should have a backup plan in mind. Radek Martinek’s greatest consistency as a player is his ability to get injured.


Veteran NHL C Mike Sillinger retires

He played for 12 different teams in his career but he scored the most points for his final team, the New York Islanders. Enjoy your retirement Mike.

New York Islanders center Mike Sillinger decided two hip operations were enough.

The center who played for a record 12 teams during 17 seasons in the NHL is retiring because of an injured left hip.

“The decision was clear to me after dealing with hip surgery the last two seasons, Sillinger said during a conference call Wednesday. “If I was to come back and be a hero I’d be getting a hip replacement before I’m 40.”

The 38-year-old forward played in only seven games last season and had season-ending hip resurfacing surgery in January. In February 2008, he had a microfracture procedure on the hip that forced him to sit out the final 29 games of that season.

Sillinger spent three years with the Islanders and his 42 goals and 87 points were his most with any NHL team.

“It’s a big hole to fill,” Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. “Mike was good at many different things, whether it was putting the puck in the net or taking a faceoff.”

Sillinger was chosen No. 11 in the 1989 draft by Detroit. For his career, he had 240 goals and 308 assists in 1,049 games.

Sillinger said he’d like to stay in hockey but downplayed the notion that he might go into coaching right away.

“I’m just going to enjoy the kids for now and see what the future brings,” he said.

Besides the Islanders and Red Wings, Sillinger also suited up for Anaheim, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Florida, Ottawa, Columbus, Phoenix, St. Louis and Nashville.


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