Monday, October 29, 2007

Opening night at "The Rock"

On a busy sports weekend which featured a World Series game between the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies, college football Saturday, and two other games/events in close proximity, the Breeders’ Cup and the New York Rangers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, the New Jersey Devils played their home opener in the brand new $375M Prudential Center (the Rock).

We drove in to downtown Newark for the first time to catch this game. As you entered the area, a certain vibrancy surrounded the arena. Though nearby, remnants of Newark long ago exist causing initial skepticism about building the arena there, it seems the area may be ripe to continue in its development.

Entering the arena, most of the crowd came through a huge glass enclosed entry way which extends from top to bottom of the building. Moving up long escalators, you arrive on the wide open concourse level featuring local New Jersey youth hockey jerseys hanging throughout, similar to the Minnesota Wild’s Xcel Center. It is clear the large building has all the modern amenities (suites, club seating, restaurants) of the new arenas which have been built by many NHL teams over the last decade.

At the start of the game, the capacity crowd, along with the state of the art sound system and video board, started to literally “rock” the house. The pre-game ceremonies included an introduction of the Devils’ players followed by the ceremonial drop of the puck by Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Mayor Cory Booker, and former Devils’ Ken Daneyko and NHL Hall of Fame inductee, Scott Stevens along with the respective captains Patrik Elias and the Ottawa Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson.

Bettman commented that the Meadowlands lacked soul. Any sense of that existing in the Prudential Center was eliminated from the start. Though it was an excellent fan experience, the Devils lost the game 4-1. They will have to play well to establish interest and draw the largely suburban community to downtown Newark as the building’s anchor tenant with only a small number of lower priced tickets. The only other complaint heard was from some of the players about poor ice quality after a Bon Jovi concert the prior evening. Devils’s ownership has built a first class arena in an urban city trying to rid itself of crime and establishment of its growth potential which will be an interesting story to follow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kovalchuk gets Atlanta back in the right direction

Ilya Kovalchuk, who had a goal and two assists last night, scored the game-winning goal in the shootout against Toronto. This was a heated battle between two struggling teams, both looking to find their identities early on in the season. Toronto tied the game up at 4 with only ten seconds to go in regulation. Kovalchuk ended the affair in the shootout by beating Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala high to his glove side.


Kovalchuk scores winner in shootout
Overtime win Thrashers' first on the road this season

The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 10/23/07

Toronto -- Lost in the miserable start this season for the Thrashers has been an interesting development. Ilya Kovalchuk is emerging as the leader of the team. The player chastised in the past for defensive lapses, for selfish play, is refusing to let this season slip away.

Against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the Thrashers overcame a goal scored 13 seconds into the game and one scored with only 9.3 seconds left to earn their first road win of the season, a 5-4 shootout victory.

And Kovalchuk was the reason why. He left a perfect pass for Tobias Enstrom for the Thrashers' first goal of the game, and Enstrom's first of his NHL career. He scored the Thrashers second goal of the game, his fifth of the season. His line was by far the team's most productive.

And when the Thrashers needed a game-winner in the shootout, Kovalchuk delivered. In the past, the shootout wasn't his strength. On Tuesday night, that didn't matter.
He slid a shot underneath Vesa Toskala and was mobbed by teammates on the Thrashers' bench.

"Ilya is a huge competitor," said general manager and interim coach Don Waddell. "Everybody talks about how he scores goals and that ... but he's been a tremendous leader for us this year, on and off the ice. He's taken charge of this hockey club, and tonight it was evident from the very first shift that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with."

The patience the team has shown allowing center Todd White to remain on Kovalchuk's line is paying off. There's some chemistry developing between the two, and forward Eric Perrin got several chances as the third member of that line.

Perrin scored his first goal of the season, and his first as a member of the Thrashers.

White scored his second goal of the year, and said he's witnessing how much teams back off Kovalchuk as he enters the zone because of his speed. White is starting to capitalize on it.

"Kovalchuk's played well; he has. It was a lot of fun skating with him tonight," said White. "I thought even at 0-6, he was our best player. He's battled hard; he's played well defensively. Tonight was a game where things were working, we have to ride him in those games."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wirtanen's first NHL goal is a game-winner

Congratulations to PuckAgency client Petteri Wirtanen on his first NHL goal! Petteri was called up on Monday from Portland and scored the game-winning goal in Anaheim's 3-1 win over Nashville, which was his first NHL game, on Wednesday night.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wirtanen's first NHL goal sparks Ducks to victory
The rookie center scores the winner in the Ducks' 3-1 triumph over Nashville.

The Orange County Register

ANAHEIM -- Missing three key players from their lineup because of injuries, the Ducks need contributions from even unexpected sources, and that is exactly what they received Wednesday night in a 3-1 triumph over the Nashville Predators at Honda Center.

Third-period goals by rookies Petteri Wirtanen and Drew Miller, the first in the NHL for each, capped a tenacious effort that gave the Ducks their first winning streak of the season and enabled them to take a 4-4-1 record to Dallas for the beginning of a two-game road swing Saturday.

Wirtanen, recalled from American League affiliate Portland, Maine, on Monday and playing in his first NHL game, capped a two-on-one rush led by George Parros to snap a 1-1 tie 4:47 into the final session, and Miller added an insurance goal when he converted a breakaway at 12:23.

“It’s nice to see young players score their first goal,” Coach Randy Carlyle said. “It’s a tribute to the scouting staff and our management that were able to find these young players to come in and make a contribution. The contribution is greater tonight than what would be normally expected of them.”

With right wing Todd Bertuzzi and center Todd Marchant having been lost to a concussion and a bruised right ankle, respectively, in Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Minnesota, and defenseman Mathieu Schneider out with a broken ankle, the Ducks turned to two players who had previously combined to play in only one regular-season game.

Miller, whose previous NHL resume consisted of limited duty in three Stanley Cup playoff games last spring, dressed for a 5-4 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 6 but was a healthy scratch in the ensuing two games.

“Right now because of the injuries and guys we have out of the lineup, who are big players for us, we need those young guys to come in and do a good job, and they’ve been doing that,” goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. “Quite frankly, there are a lot of guys in Portland who could be called up, too. We’ve drafted pretty well here in the last few years, and made some good trades, so we’re pretty deep. It’s a good sign for our organization.”

Giguere did his part, too, registering 28 saves in his second appearance of the season after having missed the opening six games while recovering from sports-hernia surgery. The lone blemish was a goal 2:24 into the third period by Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, who scored from the low slot after a nice pass from winger Alexander Radulov.

Suter’s first goal of the season erased a Ducks lead built on Corey Perry’s team-high fifth goal, which came 20 seconds before the end of the first period. A breakout pass by defenseman Kent Huskins, who scored his first NHL goal in Monday’s 6-3 victory over Detroit, sent Parros up the right wing with speed. Parros delivered a nice feed for Wirtanen, who poked the puck past Predators defenseman Greg de Vries and waited patiently for Chris Mason to commit before tapping a shot past the Nashville goalie’s outstretched right skate.

“It was a moment I couldn’t even imagine,” Wirtanen said. “Waking up this morning, I just wanted to take this as a normal game, but of course you’re a little bit nervous. The chance came and I put it in -- and it just felt awesome.” Miller took a cross-ice pass from center Andy McDonald, eluded Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis near the Ducks’ blue line, outraced de Vries and beat Mason between his pads with a quick shot from the slot. “It was a big goal for our team, so it was nice to get that first one out of the way,” Miller said.

GOOD CHEMISTRY Wirtanen and Parros skated on the fourth line with left wing Brad May, reuniting a trio that shone at times during the exhibition campaign, including a game at Vancouver in which Wirtanen scored two goals. “We were psyched to have him up because we did have a couple of great games in the pre-season,” Parros said. “It worked again tonight. We’re happy to have him.”

NOTES Wirtanen became the ninth player in Ducks history to score a goal in his NHL debut, following Bobby Ryan, who did so in this season’s opener against the Kings in London. … Marchant skated briefly Wednesday morning and said he would try to practice today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tim Taylor has begun the long road back

PuckAgency client and Tampa Bay Lightning captain Tim Taylor is over a month into his rehabilitation from hip resurfacing surgery. Tim is trying to become the first player in a contact sport to play following the procedure. Tim will be sharing his experiences with Tampa Tribune writer Erik Erlendsson over the course of the year.

Lightning Captain Taylor On Long Road Back

By ERIK ERLENDSSON, The Tampa Tribune
Published: October 16, 2007

Lightning captain and two-time Stanley Cup champion Tim Taylor underwent hip resurfacing surgery on his right hip Sept. 6 to repair a degenerative condition that plagued him for much of last season. The surgery was performed by Stephen Raterman at University Community Hospital, and Taylor has begun the rehabilitation process as he attempts to become the first player in a contact sport to play after the procedure.

In the weeks leading up to his surgery, the 13-year NHL veteran, who hopes to be back on the ice and in uniform in February, was told by the surgeon he'd be ready to get back on the golf course within a month of the procedure. That's something Taylor quickly found out might have been a stretch of the truth as far as he was concerned.

In his first discussion, Taylor talks about why he didn't feel like walking to the bathroom, let alone picking up a golf club, that his entire right leg was sore after the surgery, and what it was like trying to do normal things around the house.

It's so tight in my right leg that, as I put my legs and feet together, the left leg is longer than the other one where they did the surgery. But it's just because that hip is down lower on the right side and it's just offset.

When Dr. Raterman did the surgery, and this is how he explained it to me after the fact: I was lying on the bed on my left hip, so that they can pull back the right leg and pull it up to my butt. As they pull it up to my butt he calls four guys in, he calls them his moving team, they come in and grab my leg and as hard as they can, they pop it over. The leg is already cut and the bone pops out and that's the only way they can do it.

When they showed it on a clip on News Channel 8, you could only see one leg because my other leg was way over by my head. He asked me later if I was sore and I said, 'Yeah, my whole leg, not just the one area.' He told me that when he does it, it's a procedure where they basically have to break my leg to pull the bone out, so the leg is basically somewhere else. They started it out at my rear, but they put it up near my head, pop it out and then it just lies there because there is no bone in it. It just lies there. The NHL Network was in there and they videotaped it and they asked me if I wanted a copy of it and I said, 'No, no.' I want to wait until I'm completely better before I see any of that.

Dr. Raterman was very positive and very encouraging to start moving and get going after the surgery. When he told me about the surgery and what was going to happen, he almost led me to believe that I would be out there wanting to golf and everything, and I almost felt like I was way behind because I had no desire whatsoever. I had a really hard time moving around and I thought when he did tell me that, that I would feel good after three or four days, and I didn't feel very good at all.

I was petrified to get up and go to the bathroom. I was pretty sore. It was a long two weeks.

Moving around the house was a chore. To sit down on the toilet was torture to get down. And then it's real embarrassing that you go to the bathroom or take a shower and you can't put your own clothes on. My wife, Jodi, was gone and I had to ask my daughter to come and help me pull up my shorts because I couldn't get them up. To lose that, I can't imagine older people going through this because you lose a lot of your independence. That was the hardest thing for me was losing that.