NHL news and notes: April 2

NHL news and notes: April 2


Hockey Today - April 2
Mon, Apr 2, 2007
By Associated Press

SCOREBOARD

Monday, April 2

St. Louis at Dallas (8 p.m. EDT). The Stars have won three straight.

STARS

Sunday

- Jonathan Cheechoo, Sharks, scored three times to lead San Jose past Los Angeles, 6-2.

- Ray Whitney, Hurricanes, scored 1:30 into overtime to give Carolina a 4-3 win over Florida.

- Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks, scored a tiebreaking goal in the third period of Chicago's 2-1 win over Edmonton.

PEAKING

With the injured Patrik Elias, John Madden and Brian Gionta returning from injury, New Jersey has won four of five games, giving the Devils 102 points. They have a one-point lead over the Penguins in the race for both the division title and the No. 2 seed overall in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have three games left in the regular season.

HELPING HAND

Sean Avery had two goals and an assist in the Rangers' 7-2 win over Toronto on Sunday. New York is 16-5-5 with him in the lineup since he arrived from Los Angeles on Feb. 5. He has eight goals and 11 assists in those 26 games.

GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES

Jonathan Cheechoo had his third three-goal game of the season in San Jose's 6-2 win over Los Angeles on Sunday. It was his eighth career hat trick.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Detroit beat Columbus 4-1 Sunday to move into first overall in the NHL. The Red Wings have earned points in six straight (3-0-3) for a total of 108 to surpass Buffalo in the race for the President's Trophy, given to the team with the most regular season points.

SPEAKING

''Darcy has always been a whiner. You say you don't like his hair and he'll be upset,'' - The Rangers' Sean Avery, who scrapped with Toronto's Darcy Tucker during New York's 7-2 win Sunday.

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Re: NHL news and notes: April 2

Sabres' Afinogenov, Connolly close to returning
Mon, Apr 2, 2007
By Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Forwards Maxim Afinogenov and Tim Connolly could return by this weekend, giving the Buffalo Sabres their healthiest lineup in months just in time for the playoffs.

The two players practiced Monday, and Coach Lindy Ruff said both could be cleared for contact by Wednesday. Ruff said it's possible one or both could play before the Sabres close their regular season Sunday at Philadelphia.

''It's a big addition if we can get them ready and on top of their games,'' Ruff said.

Afinogenov is a dynamic and speedy right wing, who has missed 20 games with a broken left wrist. He was among the team's leaders before he was hurt, registering 23 goals and 34 assists in 53 games.

Connolly is a play-making center who has missed the entire season since sustaining a concussion during the second round of the playoffs last May. His headaches since cleared, Connolly experienced a setback in his recovery six weeks ago when he broke a bone below his knee.

Ruff cautioned Connolly would initially be used in a limited role - possibly as a power-play specialist - because he is still working himself into shape.

That's significant news for the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres (50-21-7), who had up to seven regulars out at the same time in February. The Sabres have only one other player hurt, forward Paul Gaustad, who isn't expected back this season after having surgery to repair a sliced tendon in his left leg.

With four games left, starting Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Buffalo is one win from clinching first place in the East. The Sabres would also clinch with one more loss by Ottawa and New Jersey.

Afinogenov said he still felt some soreness in his wrist as anticipated, but was happy to finally be back practicing.

''Definitely, it's a big step for me,'' Afinogenov said. ''There's probably going to be some mistakes on the way, but I'm excited right now and happy to be back.''

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Re: NHL news and notes: April 2

Julien fired as Devils coach; Lamoriello takes over
Mon, Apr 2, 2007
By Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Claude Julien was fired as New Jersey Devils coach Monday and replaced by general manager Lou Lamoriello with a week to go in the regular season.

The firing comes after the Devils won four of their last five games. The team is in first place in the Atlantic Division with three games to go.

Julien guided the Devils to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, posting a 47-24-8 mark in his only season as coach.

The move marks the second time in as many seasons that Lamoriello has stepped behind the bench. Last season he led the Devils to the Atlantic Division title after Larry Robinson resigned unexpectedly in December.

Monday's firing isn't the only time Lamoriello made a late-season coaching move. He fired Robby Ftorek late in the 2002-2003 season and Robinson eventually led the team to its third Stanley Cup since 1995.

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