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Breaking down the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoff race

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The Rangers have some ground to make up, but an easy schedule could send them to the playoffs. (Bill Wippert/ Getty Images)

The Rangers have ground to make up, but an easy schedule could send them to the playoffs. (Bill Wippert/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

Herewith, the second of our looks at the final week of regular season action. Today, the Eastern Conference. Our Western Conference playoff breakdown is here.

In the wake of Saturday’s action, five teams have officially clinched berths in the Eastern playoffs, leaving three spots up for grabs.

The Islanders are in the catbird seat after a thrilling 5-4 shootout win in Winnipeg on Saturday. The Devils are drawing their last breath. That leaves the Sens, Rangers and Jets to battle it out for the final two spots.

Here’s a look at how each of these teams closes out the season and how their chances stack up.

Read More…


  • Published On Apr 21, 2013
  • With Andrew Ladd leading the way, Jets remain in playoff hunt

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    Captain Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets

    With two Stanley Cups on resume, Andrew Ladd knows what it takes to win. (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel offered an interesting take on leadership the other night.

    “It’s a funny thing,” he said. “Everyone has some portion of leadership in them. The question is, is anybody following you? They follow Andrew.”

    Andrew, of course, being Andrew Ladd, the wrecking ball on skates who has carried Noel’s Jets much of this season, but never more obviously than over this final, desperate charge for the playoffs.

    He’s set the tone down the stretch with his grim determination and timely scoring, willing Winnipeg to four straight wins that have moved the Jets into a virtual tie with the Rangers for the final playoff spot in the East.

    Ladd, a 6′-3″, 205-pound winger who plays much bigger than that, was at his beastly best in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, scoring the opening goal, assisting on the second, and tallying the third before clinching the desperately needed extra point with a beauty in the shootout.

    “He really took charge and led the way,” said teammate Evander Kane. “He couldn’t have put it on display any better. [He's] showing the guys he’s here to win.”

    Read More…


  • Published On Apr 18, 2013
  • Gruesome scar proves Zach Redmond of Jets is lucky to be alive

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    Zach Redmond's scar

    In an NHL season full of ghastly injuries, Winnipeg defenseman Zach Redmond’s must surely be the most dangerous.

    By Allan Muir

    It’s been about six weeks since we heard the frightening reports from a Winnipeg Jets practice that rookie defenseman Zach Redmond had suffered a serious cut to his thigh and was bleeding profusely on the ice.

    Not long after, we learned that the skate of teammate Antti Miettinen had slashed through Redmond’s femoral artery and he easily could have bled to death if not for the fast action of team trainers and surgeons.

    “I’ve been doing this for 12 years and that’s easily the most-grave incident I’ve been a part of, for sure,” Jets head athletic therapist Rob Milette told the Winnipeg Free Press. “He lost a lot of blood there and his heart was definitely struggling. We were monitoring his vitals, checking his pulse. His pulse was really weak and really slow. He was pale. He was starting to tell us he was getting thirsty and that told us he had lost a lot of blood.”

    Awful stuff.

    But hearing about it and seeing it are two different things.

    The photo above, tweeted by CBC’s Mitch Peacock, gruesomely illustrates just how lucky Redmond is to have survived the gash.

    More amazing: Redmond returned to practice today. He’s not expected to be back this season (barring a deep playoff run by the Jets, so, um, you know), but he will return to action. Good stuff.

    And on the plus side, chicks dig scars…


  • Published On Apr 05, 2013
  • Penguins host Jets, looking for 14th consecutive win

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    Sidney Crosby

    The Jets and Penguins last met on Feb. 15 in Winnipeg, with the Pens winning, 3-1. (Travis Golby/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    The Pittsburgh Penguins return to the ice tonight in search of their 14th consecutive win, but it’ll be another couple of weeks before the World’s Greatest Team assembles in all its glory.

    The Pens will be without Kris Letang for at least another week after the defender broke a bone in his foot against the Canadiens. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury also is nursing an injury suffered against the Habs. Reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin is a game-time decision after missing nine games with an upper body injury. And Jarome Iginla, acquired in the season’s biggest trade early Thursday morning, is out pending resolution of work visa issues. He could play Saturday, but the holiday weekend could push his debut into next week.

    HACKEL: A sad day in Calgary

    But even without that quartet of All-Stars, the Pens are well situated to stretch the NHL’s longest winning streak since 1990. The defense, which has allowed just nine goals over Pittsburgh’s last nine games, could get a boost from the debut of Douglas Murray. The hard-hitting defender, acquired earlier in the week from San Jose, will skate on the second pair with Matt Niskanen and should see some time on the penalty kill.

    Brenden Morrow did line rushes with James Neal and Malkin during the morning skate, and worked the second power play unit with Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis ahead of his second game with the Pens.

    Tomas Vokoun will get the start in net.

    The Jets are firming up their position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, building a six-point lead over their Southeast Division pursuers after a 4-1 win in Carolina on Tuesday. Evander Kane fired six shots to add to his league-leading total and broke a lengthy slump with a goal and three assists in the contest, and linemates Olli Jokinen and Nik Antropov also tallied. The Jets need this trio to contribute with some consistency to take pressure off Andrew Ladd’s line, so they’re hoping that game sparks their confidence down the stretch.

    Winnipeg got top blueliner Tobias Enstrom back in the lineup two games ago, and he tallied in both contests. Partner Dustin Byfuglien has racked up 10 points in his last nine games. They could draw a heavy workload tonight with Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart expected to miss the contest.

    The Jets are playing their best hockey on the road this season, running up a 10-6-2 mark.

    Al Montoya, making just his seventh appearance of the season, gets the start for the Jets.


  • Published On Mar 28, 2013
  • Report: Gory injury suffered by Jets defenseman Zach Redmond UPDATED

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    By Allan Muir

    UPDATE: Redmond underwent a three-hour operation to repair a deep cut into the right femoral artery. He is said to be resting comfortably at a Raleigh-area hospital.
    Redmond was wearing Kevlar socks at the time of the accident, but the skate cut into his leg above them.

    Disturbing tweets from the Winnipeg Jets’ practice this morning where Winnipeg Free Press writer Ed Tait is reporting that rookie defender Zach Redmond may have suffered a serious leg injury.

    Read More…


  • Published On Feb 21, 2013
  • Jets’ owner talks realignment on Hockey Night in Canada

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     The Jets moved from Atlanta after the 2010-11 season but remain in the Southeast Division. (Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)

    The Jets moved from Atlanta after the 2010-11 season but remain in the Southeast Division. (Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Mark Chipman isn’t a recluse, but the owner of the Winnipeg Jets doesn’t exactly seek out the limelight, either. So his appearance on Hockey Night in Canada Friday was a nice get for the show.

    Host Scott Oake killed a couple minutes chatting with Chipman before he finally got around to the question that matters: realignment. He asked “Jesus of the Prairies” if he thought the team would be in a conference more friendly for travel and for more natural rivalries.

    “Yeah, I’m quite certain that’ll be the case,” said Chipman, who has been deeply involved in the process. “I’m not quite certain how it will line up. I suspect it will be much like what we agreed to a little over a year ago. We’ll be playing down in the Central time zone which we were excited about, not only for the travel, but there was to be a couple of Original 6 teams in that conference. Playing against Minnesota, I think we could develop a really good rivalry as well.”

    The December 2011 plan would have seen the Jets grouped with Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, and Dallas. That proposal was scuttled by the NHLPA, forcing the Jets to remain in the geographically remote Southeast division for this shortened season.

    The NHL and NHLPA are expected to resume talks on realignment next week, with sources suggesting a vote by owners to approve a slightly altered version of the 2011 plan could come as soon as Feb. 25.


  • Published On Feb 15, 2013
  • Devils get Alex Ponikarovsky back from Jets

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    Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky joined the Jets as a free agent last summer. (Getty Images)

    Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky joined the Jets as a free agent last summer. (Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Nothing breeds success like familiarity.

    That’s clearly the thinking in New Jersey, where the Devils tonight announced the re-acquisition of forward Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a 2013 seventh rounder and a 2014 fourth rounder.

    Ponikarovsky will be on his second tour of duty with the Devils. He was dealt there last season by the Hurricanes and was solid in the team’s run to the Cup Final, racking up nine points and a plus-eight rating.

    He left New Jersey to join the Jets as a free agent over the summer. The Devils wanted to re-sign the 12-year-vet at the time, but the team’s focus on negotiations with Zach Parise led him to look elsewhere rather than wait for scraps.

    “We really would have re-signed him except that at that time we were really waiting to see what we were going to be doing with another player and it held up,” said New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello. “And I don’t think he could wait any longer, which I respected.”

    Failing to get that deal done at the time cost them two picks now, but the Devils were desperate for another experienced forward having lost Dainius Zubrus for up to eight weeks. Ponikarovsky, who is expected to play Friday against Philadelphia, should make a quick transition to a familiar system.

    “He played our style,” Lamoriello said. “He played in all situations. He was a player that played extremely well for us throughout the playoffs and just fit into the sort of culture that we have here in New Jersey.”

    The Jets were looking to thin out their forward ranks after acquiring Eric Tangradi from Pittsburgh earlier today. Tangradi, a former second-round pick of the Pens, was a dangerous power forward with Belleville of the OHL, but couldn’t translate his game to the NHL despite multiple opportunities alongside Evgeni Malkin. They’re hoping a change of scenery will help him rediscover his confidence.


  • Published On Feb 13, 2013
  • Top Line: NHL realignment coming, Kari Lehtonen’s save of the year, more

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    Ron Hainsey and Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets

    Defenseman Ron Hainsey, active in NHLPA matters, is keeping tabs on where the Jets may land in realignment. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    A guide to this morning’s must-read stories around the NHL.

    • Realignment is the NHL’s “powder keg” but talks are again underway between the league and the NHLPA. The status quo is not an option in Winnipeg, where the Jets expect a move out of the Eastern Conference to happen in time for the 2013-14 season.

    • This man-crush I’m developing for Kari Lehtonen is not an exclusive thing. Watch this stop he made last night on Columbus’ Jack Johnson and join me.

    • The consensus on the P.K. Subban deal? Montreal GM Marc Bergevin emerges as the big winner.

    • Things are getting back to normal in Phoenix. The Coyotes played a strictly disciplined game. Friends and family dotted the stands at Jobing.com Arena. And Chad Johnson stepped up with a 21-save shutout. Wait…who?

    Read More…


  • Published On Jan 29, 2013
  • Top Line: Yakupov’s wild goal celebration, Teemu’s bobblehead, more

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    By Allan Muir

    • Nail Yakupov with the greatest goal celly in a long time highlighted an insane finish in Edmonton Thursday night. Oh, and the Cup champion Kings have yet to win a game.

    Keeping a good thing going will be key for an Anaheim team that’s trying to stay relevant in the Los Angeles market. Might also help if they could dig up a picture of Teemu Selanne to send to the manufacturer of his next bobblehead.

    • Colorado forward John Mitchell, after taking a puck to the forehead, “knew he was cut.” That’s good. Knowing you have a problem is always the first step to recovery.

    • “I love him more.” “No, I love him more!” Ray Bourque is the latest to go gaga over Justin Bieber
    Boston rookie Dougie Hamilton , the teen sensation who looks waaay better in black and gold than he did earlier this month in red and white.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jan 25, 2013
  • After The Whistle: Bruins look like hungry team again

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    Tyler Seguin scores in shootout vs. Winnipeg Jets

    Tyler Seguin came into the season hot with an improving all-around game. (Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Some thoughts on Monday’s matinee in Boston:

    • It was a sloppy, hard-hitting, entertaining game, with the Bruins winning 2-1 in the shootout. Chris Thorburn opened the scoring for the Jets in the first before Brad Marchand evened it up, deflecting home a sensational pass from Tyler Seguin. Patrice Bergeron earned the extra point in the skills competition.

    • Winnipeg did a nice job of hanging around all afternoon, and getting a point on the road against a Cup contender is a big deal for a team that struggled last season away from the MTS Centre. The Jets showed lots of compete, but didn’t create chances — either quality or quantity — the way the Bruins did. Winnipeg managed just one shot while going 0-for-4 on the power play, including a pair of opportunities in OT. No excuses for that.

    • Both teams are likely to talk about how bad bounces and a lack of puck luck cost them, but a lot of that comes down to rust. Take Brad Marchand. Outside of his goal, he made about half-a-dozen great half-plays. He’d create something with his hustle or an active stick, but then would lose the puck or fail to make an effective pass . That’s the way it went on both sides.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jan 21, 2013


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