Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Need to know: Costly win for Hawks?
By Scott Burnside
• Kudos to the Chicago Blackhawks for tying an NHL record with at least a point in 16 straight games to open a season after knocking off Vancouver in a shootout 4-3 on Tuesday night. Here's hoping they didn't pay for it with the loss of one of their top players as Marian Hossa was given a nasty elbow to the back of the head early in the third period by Jannik Hansen. Hossa did not return, and Hansen was assessed a minor penalty. According to NHL.com, he will have a hearing with league officials Wednesday afternoon. The play was nothing like the search and destroy mission Raffi Torres performed on Hossa during the Hawks' first-round playoff series against Phoenix last season. That hit saw Hossa concussed and carried off the ice on a stretcher. On Tuesday night, Hossa -- who had scored twice in a three-goal second period -- was able to leave the ice on his own after lying face-down for a few minutes. But the bottom line is he did not return. Our guess is Hansen gets a couple of games even though he has no history of supplementary discipline.
• Talk about the pressures of a compressed schedule ... consider this: The St. Louis Blues, upbeat after a three-game road winning streak that included an emotional shootout win over the Canucks on Sunday, were delayed in Vancouver all day Monday by mechanical problems with their charter aircraft. They arrived in St. Louis on Tuesday morning and dropped a 2-1 decision to the slumping San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, their fifth straight game at home without a win. Then they headed right back to the airport to charter (hopefully on a different plane) to Colorado, where they will play the Avs on Wednesday night.
• OK, let's try this on for size: As of Wednesday morning, the Montreal Canadiens were the first-place team in the Eastern Conference. And the New York Rangers, last year's top team during the regular season, were tied for eighth following a 3-1 loss to the Habs at Madison Square Garden. After being under the weather, Carey Price returned and stopped 24 of 25 shots as Montreal won its fifth in a row. The Rangers were without Rick Nash, whose status going forward remained unknown. That's not good news for a team that boasts the worst power play in the NHL.
• So, what does it say about the Buffalo Sabres that they welcome a reeling Winnipeg Jets team that is traditionally woeful away from home, and they still can't close the deal? The Sabres allowed the Jets to score one minute into Tuesday's game and ended up losing 2-1, pushing the Jets ahead of Buffalo in the standings. Wow. It says the Sabres are a mess, and one has to wonder how many more of these kinds of outings owner Terry Pegula will tolerate. The Sabres are 3-7 in their past 10 and tied with the Jets and the New York Islanders in what could only be described as a trio of sad sacks with just 13 points; Buffalo has played one more game than New York and two more than Winnipeg.
• You don't have to go very far to find hockey people who have counted out the Ottawa Senators. We know, courtesy of our good pal Pierre LeBrun, that rival GMs are already thinking about ways of possibly prying Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson out of Ottawa should the injury-ravaged Senators sink below the surface. That may yet happen, but Tuesday was a good indication of the character this young team possesses as it soldiers on without Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson. The Senators got first-ever NHL goals from Andre Benoit and David Dziurzynski en route to a 3-1 win over the hapless Islanders (see above). The Sens have won two in a row and as of Wednesday were tied with Boston and Toronto in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff grid, although Boston has four games on hand on its division rivals.
• It's been as tough a season as we can remember for the Detroit Red Wings injurywise, and it continued Tuesday as workhorse Jimmy Howard left just 11:22 into the game after giving up two goals and was replaced by Jonas Gustavsson, who is just back from injury himself. The Wings went on to lose 4-3 to the Nashville Predators on Shea Weber's overtime winner. The Wings are winless in four games and as of Wednesday morning were outside the playoff bubble in the Western Conference. The loss did not blunt the "holy cow" factor of Pavel Datsyuk's individual effort in scoring on one of the prettiest goals you'll see anywhere to tie the game in the third, as he essentially took on the entire Predators team and beat Pekka Rinne.