The Flames head into Colorado tonight to face an Avalanche team that has seen five of their seven wins come on home ice at the Pepsi Center (5-2-1). This will be the second meeting between the clubs this season, with the Aves beating the Flames 6-3 on January 31st at the Dome. It was the Aves third straight victory over the Flames as they will look to make it four tonight.
In a season rife with woes for the Detroit Red Wings to frown on, they can at least say they're off to a better start than this evening's opponents: the Calgary Flames. The Wings hope to get back into the win column tonight, but doing so will require them to hand a defeat to one of their most recently departed former teammates, forward Jiri Hudler.
Things do not get any easier for the Flames as they welcome their toughest test of the season to the Dome, the Chicago Blackhawks. The two teams are on the opposite end of the spectrum in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks have yet to lose in regulation and are tied for 1st with 14 points, while the Flames have got off to a terrible start and sit in the West’s basement.
Detroit finally made a move of note this offseason by securing speedster Darren Helm till 2016. Helm signed a 4-year $8.5 Million contract, sources say, which gives him an average cap hit of $2.125 Million/year. This is great news, as Helm is one of the best energy players on the team--something the Wings could've used much more of during the playoffs.
Helm's season was interrupted last year by injuries, including a sliced tendon in the series against Nashville that sidelined him for the rest of the year. Surgery on the injured arm was successful, however, and Darren is expected to be ready for training camp and should be back to his old self in no time.
I'm going to begin this little piece by saying that Jiri Hudler honestly did surprise me this past season. Let it be known that I thought his stint in the KHL had wrecked his form beyond repair and that any strides forward he had made previously with Detroit had all been lost.
Then last year rolled around and we got a mostly decent 50-point producer who looked like he had begun to find himself again. A perfect split between goals and assists with 25 each, had Happy Hudler finally gotten his groove back? Perhaps he has, but we now find ourselves at a crossroads: Hudler's contract is up, and he is now an unrestricted free agent. Now it is up to Kenny Holland and the Red wings brain trust to decide if it's worth pursuing an extension for Jiri or if it's time to move on and let Hudler test the waters of free agency.
Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne stole another win in the playoffs from the Detroit Red Wings last night. The Wings have now lost three out of four games in the first round of the playoffs. Can Detroit make a come back or are they done for?
With the New York Islanders heading into another off-season without a playoff berth, the team will look to solidify its young core through the NHL draft, trades, and signings of free agents. (Robert Kowal/Flickr)
While the Isles might not be fortunate enough to land Nail Yakupov in this year's NHL Entry Draft, the team should focus on trying to scout the best defenseman out of this year's draft. Names like Trouba, Dumba, Rielly, Murray, and Reinhart are headlining the list of premier d-men that will be available to the Islanders come draft day in June.
Drafting a young defenseman will probably be the right choice for the Isles, but one can't simply ignore that New York has holes to fill for the 2012-2013 NHL Season. Mike Mottau, Milan Jurcina, Mark Eaton, and Steve Staios tried to do their jobs as veteran rearguards, but it was painfully obvious on certain nights that the Islanders' d-men were simply outmatched. If the Islanders want to stay in contention in a highly competitive Atlantic Division, then General Manager Garth Snow must exhaust all of his resources toward signing or acquiring a top 4 defenseman.