|Big, bruising Wild trying to squeeze in lots of muscle for Stanley Cup playoffs|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 04 April 2008 09:58|
With Derek Boogaard, Chris Simon and Todd Fedoruk in tow, it won't be easy to intimidate or knock down the Wild. The chore facing coach Jacques Lemaire is figuring out if he can get the three bruisers in a playoff lineup.
``It will depend on the team we'll be facing,'' Lemaire said. ``We got Simon because we felt at the time we weren't sure Boogaard would come back with the team. It was more a safety in getting Simon. But now that Boogaard is here, sometimes it's hard - depending on the team you're playing - to play all three of them.''
Boogaard missed a month with a bad back, but he has returned and is always willing to drop the gloves when the situation calls for it. Simon was acquired from the New York Islanders at the trade deadline, shortly after serving a 30-game NHL suspension for stomping on the leg of Pittsburgh agitator Jarkko Ruutu.
This tough crew might be the physical match of the rugged Anaheim Ducks, who are looking to defend their Stanley Cup title.
``Well, it's a method of combatting any team that is very aggressive and that plays an aggressive game,'' Lemaire said. ``You know as well as I do that you can have all the talent in the world, and if you don't have that aggressiveness that other team has, it's going to be hard to match. So you need a good balance. You need a good chemistry on your team. These guys are part of the chemistry.''
CAPITAL GAINS: Yes, Alex Ovechkin set the single-season record for goals by a left winger, and yes he became a legit MVP contender - if not the front-runner - by leading the Washington Capitals back to respectability.
But is a 20-something-point improvement over the past two seasons when they had 70 and finished last in the Southeast Division enough to call this season a success if it doesn't produce a playoff berth?
``I'm hoping we can win out and finish with 94 points,'' Capitals owner Ted Leonsis before the final weekend of the regular season. ``If 95 points is what makes the playoffs, we didn't meet one of our main goals. I understand and relate to that.
``We've accomplished enough to say it was a very good year, but making the playoffs would be a special year.''
LIGHT IT UP: Dave Andreychuk was captain when the Tampa Bay Lightning won their only Stanley Cup title in 2004. Tim Taylor, who also played on that championship squad, is set to hang up his skates and turn over the 'C.'
There is no dispute between this pair just who should inherit it - Vincent Lecavalier.
``I believe Vinny is the logical candidate,'' said Andreychuk, now a team ambassador. ``He's improved off the ice. He's been here 10 years now. He's learned a lot.''
Lecavalier previously served as captain, a role he was given on March 11, 2000 - a month shy of his 20th birthday. At the time, he was the youngest full-time captain in NHL history.
That title is now owned by Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
Andreychuk replaced Lecavalier as captain in 2002.
``He's taken some great strides in the locker room'' Taylor said.
Other potential captains named by Andreychuk and Taylor were Martin St. Louis and Jeff Halpern.
``There's a lot of leaders in that room,'' Andreychuk said.
Taylor hopes to remain with the organization and work with minor leaguers and prospects.
Andreychuk would like to expand his role in the hockey operations. Coaching, however, doesn't interest him.
The Lightning will miss the playoffs this season, but Andreychuk believes Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella is the right man to turn things around, again.
``Absolutely. I do,'' Andreychuk said.
Tortorella took over behind the Lightning bench in January 2001. Three years later, the Lightning were NHL champions.
``This team is not too far off,'' Taylor said.
PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY: Some things don't change. Detroit is Hockeytown and playoff town, too.
The Red Wings wrapped up their sixth Presidents' Trophy on Thursday night. No other team has captured it more than twice since its inception in the 1985-86 season to honor the team with the most points in the NHL.
Detroit set the league record for the most wins in the first half of the season, going 30-8-3, and the Red Wings earned at least 100 points for the eighth consecutive season. Although they have been helped by the introduction of points for overtime losses, the Red Wings tied the Montreal Canadiens' record streak from 1974-75 through 1981-82.
They have won seven straight division titles and are in the playoffs for a 17th consecutive season, the longest active streak among major pro sports.
MUST SEE TV: For the first time in team history, the Chicago Blackhawks will televise all 82 games next season.
``We look at these (games) as three-hour commercials for our product,'' Blackhawks president John McDonough said. ``This franchise needs to be prominent, relevant.''
William Wirtz, the team's chairman for 41 years, refused to air the Blackhawks' home schedule on television, saying it would cheat ticket-buying fans. A handful of games were available to Chicago-area viewers as part of national or league network commitments.
His son, W. Rockwell ``Rocky'' Wirtz, took over after the elder Wirtz died in September.
``Our fans want to be able to follow our team on a consistent basis from opening night through the playoffs,'' Rocky Wirtz said in a statement.
The team will televise up to 20 games on WGN-TV for the next three seasons, with the rest of the games on regional cable channel Comcast SportsNet.
While many WGN programs, including telecasts of Chicago Cubs baseball games, are carried nationally on cable, Blackhawks games will be limited to the Chicago market.
Aside from network telecasts, the Blackhawks have not had a regular package of road games on broadcast television since the early 1980s, when WSNS-TV carried about 25 games a season.
WGN carried Blackhawks road games on television from the 1961 playoffs through the 1974-75 season. Home games were last seen regularly in Chicago in the early 1950s, before the Wirtz family took control of the team.
MUST SEE TV 2: Not since Sid the Kid was up for grabs has the NHL draft lottery been a made-for-TV event.
That all changes Monday night.
The weighted lottery that will determine the order of the first 14 picks in the June draft will be on the air in the United States and Canada. The actual pingpong ball selection process will be conducted behind closed doors at the league office in New York. The results will be in living color.
U.S. viewers will be able to see events unfold on Versus on the NHL Network, as well as online at NHL.com.
The only other time the lottery was televised was in 2005 at the end of the lockout. That sweepstakes rewarded the Pittsburgh Penguins the chance to draft Sidney Crosby.
That lottery included all 30 teams since the lockout forced the cancellation of the previous season, and a traditional draft order couldn't be constructed based on standings. This one will give the 14 non-playoff teams from this season a chance to improve their lot.
The club selected first in the lottery is not allowed to move up more than four positions in the draft order. Only the five teams with the fewest points will have a shot at the No. 1 pick, expected to be Canadian junior forward Steven Stamkos.
No team can drop more than one spot in the lottery. The club with the fewest points will have a 25 percent chance of winning the drawing. The first round of the draft will be held in Ottawa on June 20, with the final six rounds taking place the following day.