Custance: Good morning, Scott. Last night made for some fun hockey viewing with the Avalanche remaining perfect in the shootout to run their home win streak to six games. We know Ilya Bryzgalov already hates the shootout and having three Colorado shooters light him up might just provide something interesting for the HBO cameras.
Colorado still has some work to do to get into the top eight, and the Avalanche might want to avoid giving up late goals to send games into overtime. But it was a nice win for the Avs. I'm really looking forward to tonight's games. There are some interesting matchups, including the first game between the Rangers and Devils this season, which is strange since it's nearly Christmas. I barely recognize these Devils who have been lighting things up offensively of late and could enjoy an edge over a depleted Rangers defense.
I spoke to Pete DeBoer on Monday afternoon, and he said his aggressive up-tempo system is an effort to play to New Jersey's current strengths. "We have some depth and scoring talent up front," he said. "We've asked those guys to be more aggressive and attacking and get pucks to the net." With Travis Zajac back in the lineup, the Devils now have three potent lines. Will it be enough to slow a Rangers team that has been really strong on the road (10-5-2)?
Burnside: Craig, I also enjoyed last night’s tilts, including yet another win for Richard Bachman (wasn’t that Stephen King's nom de plume?) moving his record to 4-1 for the Stars as they beat Anaheim 5-3. But you’re right, a couple of interesting matchups tonight as we head toward the Christmas break. I also spoke to DeBoer last week, and we were talking about the two Adams, Larsson and Henrique.
Henrique, of course, was crucial for the Devils when they were so thin down the middle with Zajac and Jacob Josefson out. Now with Zach Parise cooking and Ilya Kovalchuk looking a little better, this is an interesting squad to be sure. All of which will add some urgency to the Parise contract talks that I expect will go into overdrive in January once he’s able to sign a long-term deal with the Devils -- if he wants to, of course. I’m still not sure that’s going to be in the cards for Parise and the Devils, which will make for some difficult decisions for Lou Lamoriello if he thinks Parise will walk on July 1 as an unrestricted free agent.
That said, the Devils' strong play and the blossoming of some of their young players may be enough to induce Parise to remain a Devil. As for the Rangers, like so many teams, they are absolutely beat up on the blue line with Steve Eminger, the latest to go down, out for a couple of months with a shoulder injury.
Brad Richards scored with one second to go to give the Rangers a win over Phoenix on Saturday, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rangers-Devils tilt tonight decided by the slimmest of margins.
Custance: The Devils' recent success certainly complicates the Parise issue. He's looking more and more like himself, which only drives up the price once negotiations heat up. It also means his trade value is going up, too. Can you imagine a trade deadline day in which both Parise and Ryan Suter are traded? It would be remarkable. I joked with Johan Hedberg, whom we both got to know well in Atlanta, about the potential for internal politicking in the Devils' dressing room to try to convince Parise to stay. He said the team has mostly left Parise alone.
"Everybody in the organization would like to have him as a teammate. It doesn't matter where you are, you want him as a teammate," he said. "I don't think anyone has any deeper thoughts, though, right now than we just want to win games."
In the meantime, we'll have to settle for Kyle Turris as the big blockbuster trade. He makes his Senators debut tonight, and Paul MacLean will give him every opportunity to be the No. 2 center behind Jason Spezza. I thought Don Maloney made the most out of a bad situation and was impressed with the return he received for a player everybody knew wanted out. But I'll certainly be watching closely to see if Turris responds to the fresh start with Ottawa.
Burnside: I am fascinated as to how this deal is going to shake down both short-term and long-term. I must admit the notion of a player whining his way out of playing for Dave Tippett mystifies me. If I’m Kyle Turris, I am keeping my head down and trying to do exactly what Paul MacLean asks of me in Ottawa to try to break down the well-earned (in my book, anyway) perception that he’s a prima donna. (Can you be a prima donna when you’ve done as little as Turris?)
And I agree with you that Phoenix GM Don Maloney did a good job in getting a top defensive prospect in David Rundblad plus a draft pick. It might take longer for Rundblad to make a visible impact on the Coyotes, but with Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes have the makings of a long-term blue-line corps there. The Senators are in an interesting position, too, as they’ve managed to hang around the playoff bubble a lot longer than most people imagined they might.
They’re still pretty iffy defensively, continuing to rank dead last in goals allowed per game, but a regulation win over the Sabres on Tuesday night will vault them over the Sabres and into the top eight. And given the injury woes the Sabres are confronting and their uneven play throughout the year, this game looms rather large.
Custance: I'm firmly in the camp that this team isn't close to doing anything significant in the postseason, so Bryan Murray should commit to the rebuild. Adding a young talent like Turris is almost the ideal trade for the Sens. But if someone eventually comes calling for one of his veteran defensemen, I don't think Murray should hesitate to deal for future assets. I still think teams outside of the top eight such as Montreal and Washington have more of a realistic shot at the postseason than Ottawa.
And speaking of the Caps, interesting game tonight against the Predators. Nashville quietly owns the West's longest win streak at five games, although three of those wins came against the Ducks, Blue Jackets and Flames. Not exactly world-beaters.
We've heard so much debate over whether David Poile will deal one of his franchise defensemen, yet if this team continues to win, he may opt to go the other direction and add some offense through a trade. They can certainly use it and that might be the kind of move that helps convince Suter or Shea Weber to stick around. Dale Hunter's Capitals need a win, and it's never easy against Barry Trotz's group.
Burnside: The bottom part of the Eastern Conference is once again dominated by the mediocre and the seriously flawed. The bottom line is that about three of those rarely spectacular teams is going to make the playoffs. Why not the Senators? (I mean, no other reason other than they can’t keep the puck out of their net?) That’s what’s going to make the final 45 or 50 games so compelling and will make the trade deadline even more of a crapshoot.
I keep waiting for something to happen in Washington. Will the Caps finally hit that groove we’ve seen them find so often -- at least during the regular season -- the past four years? The Caps are just 15th in 5-on-5 scoring and given that lineup, that’s a shame and one of the main reasons they’re sitting in 11th place in the East. Still, just two points out of eighth, which goes to my point that you can still stink and be right in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. Let’s see how it all shakes down tonight, my friend. Until next time.