Thursday, November 29, 2007


Hello, again! I hope everyone had a great holiday! Here is a look at what’s happening in the West:

GOALIES STAND TALL: Two Western netminders were included in the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week for the week ending Nov. 24. Ilya Bryzgalov, claimed by Phoenix on Nov.17 after the Anaheim Ducks placed him on waivers, was selected as 2nd Star for posting a 3-0-0 record with a 1.62 GAA and .938 SV%. Mike Smith of the Stars was selected as 3rd Star, also going 3-0-0, with a 1.00 GAA and .963 SV%.

The move of Bryzgalov to the desert came after several teams had made calls to Ducks’ GM Brian Burke about the 27-year old goaler, but no deal ever came to fruition. With J.S. Giguere under contract for four years, and with up-and-comer Jonas Hiller waiting in the wings at Portland (AHL), Burke agreed to let Bryzgalov go via the waiver wire. Burke made the following statement:

He’s been great. He has not asked for a trade. This whole schematic here is mine. He never came to me and said, ‘I want out.’ His agent never said ‘I want out.’ When we signed Hiller during the playoffs, you didn’t hear a word out of Bryz. We gave Giguere the four-year deal with a no-trade clause and you didn’t hear a word out of Bryz. He’s been terrific.

"I think organizations need to have reputations for honest answers with their players. And since this player came through for us: he won three playoff rounds in the last two years, he’s a quality person who helped us win, then he deserves to go somewhere else and play. The market has not materialized and I’m keeping my word today.”

The Coyotes have welcomed him with open arms. Opening Night starter David Aebischer, who appeared in that one game with Phoenix, has been loaned to HC Lugano of the Swiss-A league. The Dogs had been switching off between Mikael Tellqvist and Alex Auld in net; the arrival of Bryzgalov should give them some stability in that position. If they can get their game going at home (PHX is 4-7-0 at home but 7-3-0 on the road), the Coyotes could still make a run for a playoff spot.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, Mike Smith has helped what was a beleaguered Stars club regain an even keel. On Nov. 10th at Los Angeles, Dallas coughed up a four-goal lead, allowing five goals in a Kings’ record 5:07, and ended up losing to the Kings in OT, 6-5. Marty Turco took the loss in a game that not only shook his confidence, but embarrassed the entire organization. GM Doug Armstrong was fired three days later, replaced on an interim basis by assistant GM Les Jackson and former Star Brett Hull. The pair will run the hockey department for the rest of the year. It is an interesting idea, to say the least, and it may fall apart completely. However, the team has flourished since the move, winning six straight games after a shootout loss at home to San Jose. Smith has been a rock in net, especially on Sunday past at Madison Square Garden, stopping a career-high 39 shots in an improbable 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Could there be a move in the works… and could it be Turco moving on? I should point out that I have heard nothing in that vein… it is pure speculation on my part. The biggest problem about that idea is finding someone who would take Turco’s contract (one of the items that got Armstrong in hot water with the fans in the first place…).


For the past two seasons, the Central Division has been one of the weaker divisions in the league; with only two teams (Detroit and Nashville) making the playoffs. With the weakness of the other Central clubs, the Wings and Preds rolled up 100+ point seasons last year, while 3rd place St. Louis could only muster 81 points.
Change has arrived in the Central. While Detroit still leads the division (and conference) with 34 points, St. Louis and Chicago currently hold the 4th and 5th slots in the West with 26 points each. Also with 26 points (7th in West) are the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Each club is facing injury problems. The Blackhawks have lost C Kevyn Adams for the year to an ACL injury, but will get RW Jason Williams and RW Martin Havlat for tonight’s match against Tampa Bay. The Jackets are missing LW Fredrik Modin and D Duvie Westcott., with C Jiri Novotny listed as day-to-day with a bum shoulder. The Blues’ Martin Rucinsky is dealing with a bruised hand; while rookie RW David Backes is out with an MCL injury.
While those clubs have been on the rise, the Predators are struggling to keep pace. They are only two points out of the playoffs at this early stage, but have scored one less goal than they have allowed (62 to 63). In addition their special teams rank in the bottom third in the league; and starting goalie Chris Mason is sporting a goals-against of 3.07 and an .897 SV%.


The Vancouver Canucks have charged to the forefront by winning five of their last seven; the last two coming via back-to-back shutouts from Roberto Luongo. The Canucks are 7-1-2 in their last ten; and have been road warriors (7-3-1 away from GM Place). A 6-6-1 home mark is perplexing, to say the least. Minnesota has faded a bit after a strong start to the year, but still hold down second place. The Wild has split their last ten; and for the season are being outshot almost every night. Colorado takes no prisoners on home ice (9-2-0), but are a poor 3-7-1 on the road; and have been outscored 63-66 this season. The Avs power play (13.2%) has been anemic despite the addition of Ryan Smyth; and the team ranks 27th in faceoffs won. The Flames are struggling under Mike Keenan – or is it the play of Miikka Kiprusoff? Kipper is on his way to the worst season of his career: 10-10-3, 2.96, .886 SV%. The trio of Jarome Iginla (33pts.), Alex Tanguay (22), and Daymond Langkow (21) leads the way on offense, but the defense and 27th ranked penalty kill have been Calgary’s undoing. Edmonton has been racked by injuries, with five players on IR. The Oil has been outscored 74-57, and has the worst power play in the league. It looks to be a long, cold, and restless winter in Alberta.

Despite the upheaval in Dallas mentioned above, the Stars have moved to the top of the division. For the first time in seemingly forever, Dallas is averaging three goals a game. The Stars are 7-1-2 in their last ten games, and are once again above .500 on the road. There are bumps ahead, however. Marty Turco must get his game in order if the Stars are to hold their position. Also, Selke Award winner Jere Lehtinen requires hernia surgery and will miss the next 8-10 weeks. This will affect Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, who had forged one of the best lines in the league with Lehtinen. The recent flurry by Dallas has allowed them to open up some space on a division that is middling, at best. The Ducks are 8-3-3 at home but have been outscored 70-61. In San Jose, the Sharks are second in the league in goals allowed (2.09) but are an inexplicable 3-5-1 at home. Injuries have hurt the Sharks, with the likes of Ryan Clowe and Marcel Goc on IR. Jonathan Cheechoo continues to struggle, with seven points in 22 games. Evgeni Nabokov should be an All-Star this year: third in the league in minutes played (1307) with a 2.02 GAA and three shutouts. As described above, Phoenix is making a move behind new tender Bryzgalov. Shane Doan’s 18 points leads the way on a club with eight players in double figures. The Los Angeles Kings have won one of their last seven, and have lost Scott Thornton to injury (groin). Alexander Frolov is battling a chest injury, and is day-to-day. Ugly stat: defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky and Rob Blake are a combined -22.

Quotes courtesy

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