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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Devils host Rangers with first place in reach

The New Jersey Devils will try to take over sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division tonight when they host the rival New York Rangers at Prudential Center.

New Jersey enters tonight one point behind the Penguins for the top spot in the division as well as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Devils are currently fourth in the East and seven points ahead of fifth-seeded Ottawa.

The Devils drew even with Pittsburgh thanks to a 6-3 win over Columbus on Tuesday, but the Penguins regained the top spot with a point in Wednesday's shootout loss to Washington.

New Jersey ended a two-game slide with the home win over the Blue Jackets and is 5-2-1 in its last eight games. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac both scored twice to lead the Devils to the easy win.

"We aren't looking at the standings," said Zajac. "We have to start winning games and playing good hockey, and tonight we did that."

Ilya Kovalchuk and Paul Martin also scored for the Devils, who have captured five of their last six home games and will complete a three-game homestand tonight. New Jersey is 25-10-1 overall as the host this year.

Martin Brodeur made 19 saves in the win, which marked the 40th victory of the season for the future Hall of Famer. Brodeur, who already holds the all-time NHL mark for 40-win campaigns by a netminder, now has eight for his career.

"I expect myself to put up these kind of numbers because I play so (often), but it's always nice to get it done," said Brodeur. "It's a big number and there are not many guys in the league who are able to do it, and now I have eight of them in my career."

New Jersey could also clinch a playoff spot tonight with some help from Toronto, which is playing in Atlanta. If the Devils win this evening, then a loss of any kind by the Thrashers would seal up a postseason berth for Jersey. The Devils could also clinch if they get a point against the Rangers and Atlanta loses in regulation.

While the Devils are still in the mix for the division title and one of the top seeds in the East, the Rangers' playoff chances are hanging in the balance.

New York is 10th in the East and is five points behind Boston for the conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

The Rangers picked up a decisive home win over the rival Islanders on Wednesday, posting a 5-0 victory at Madison Square Garden. Marian Gaborik recorded two goals and an assist, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots for his third shutout of the season.

Gaborik's goals came in the first and third periods and he now has 39 tallies on the season. Another goal would give the Slovakian his second 40-goal campaign.

Artem Anisimov, Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi also scored for the Rangers.

The Rangers are playing on back-to-back nights for the 11th time this season. New York has a 6-2-2 record in the second game of back-to-backs so far in 2009-10.

Tonight marks the start of a six-game road trip for New York, which is 16-15-3 as the guest this year and has lost three of its last five away from the Big Apple.

The Devils have won three of the five meetings with New York this year and Jersey have taken six of nine overall in the series. The Rangers also have three losses in their last four trips to the Garden State.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

NHL Trade Deadline Re-Cap

With quantity going over quality with the trade deadline we have to examine questions such as are 6 hotdogs better than 3? Well Yes, but that does not necessarily mean that quantity is indicative of success.

So lets examine the recent NHL trade deadline. An all time high of 31 trades involving 55 players were completed WOW, having said that not 1 trade made any headlines there wasn't any outrage on VS network or on facebook and twitter. In fact, I would go as far as to say all the trades combined weren't as newsworthy as the handful of deals made before the Winter Olympic break that saw Canada beat the USA in Vancouver.

While the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Dion Phaneuf, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Olli Jokinen were all moved back in late January and early February, the day of March 3, which many NHL enthusiasts have had circled for months now, came and went with a whisper.

"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper." T.S. Eliot said that.

Now granted, the NHL isn't going to fall to pieces because of a boring trade deadline, but it is one day that many fans who remain middle-of-the-road about the sport actually care enough to check in. With the event superceded by the success of the Gold Medal Game, names like Derek Morris, Wojtek Wolski and Ryan Whitney aren't going to rope in new followers.

There were names out there. Florida's Tomas Vokoun, Dan Hamhuis of Nashville and Ray Whitney of Carolina were all reportedly out there. Even heavy-hitters like Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer and Vincent Lecavalier of Tampa Bay found their way into rumor mills, credible or not.

But in the end, anyone who didn't get a chance to sneak away during the day to check the latest news didn't miss much come dinner time.

The Philadelphia Flyers were one of only a few clubs in a playoff position that didn't make any type of deal, and general manager Paul Holmgren said there just wasn't anything out there that made sense for his club.

"At the end, we explored some of the guys who were mentioned and then we started to focus on depth when it didn't look like anything was going to make sense for us," Holmgren said. "I didn't believe that anything that was made available to us, made us better and then we just started to look at adding just a small piece by a late-round draft pick or something like that, and we weren't able to do that."

Ultimately, the deadline will be evaluated by its impact on the season. Did contenders like Washington, Pittsburgh and Phoenix get better? Probably.

The Coyotes definitely subscribed to the quantity theory, making seven trades and adding five players to their NHL roster, including defensemen Morris and Mathieu Schneider, forwards Wolski, Lee Stempniak and center Petteri Nokelainen.

"We went into it hoping to add a few parts and add to our depth and I think we've addressed those needs today," said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, whose club hasn't reached the postseason since 2002 but stands fifth in Western Conference points (79) at the moment.

On the other side of things, bottom-feeders like Carolina, Toronto and Edmonton unloaded talent to better position themselves for the future.

But sex sells, and the lack of big names may have left a bitter taste for some. I don't know about you, but perhaps that sourness can be improved with a mix of beef, sour cream, lettuce and tomato.


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