Tuesday, December 30, 2008

G Juha Metsola makes 17 saves en route to a 5-1 win for Finland over Latvia at the World Juniors

Finland goaltender Juha Metsola stopped 17 shots tonight in a 5-1 win over Latvia in the 5th day of action at the World Juniors. Goaltender Harri Sateri, a 2008 San Jose draft pick, had started in net for Finland's first two games, both losses. Metsola is currently enjoying another strong season for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League; his .908 save percentage is tied for 7th in the league. Finland was also paced by a 1st period goal by Nestori Lahde. Finland will take on Slovakia tomorrow at 6:30 PM ET as preliminary round action continues.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Evgeni Dadonov's 3-point night helps Russia breeze past Finland 5-2 in the 3rd day of World Juniors play

Florida Panthers 2007 draft pick Evgeni Dadonov scored a goal and added 2 assists in a 5-2 win tonight over Finland. In fact, the line of Evgeni Dadonov, Nikita Klyukin and Dmitri Klopov combined for 9 points in tonight's relative easy win. Nearly halfway through the first period, Evgeni raced to the puck near the half wall and then fired a wrist-shot top shelf over the outstretched glove of Finnish netminder Harri Sateri, which at the time, gave Russia a 2-1 lead (Russia never looked back from there).

Dadonov currently plays for Traktor Chelyabinsk in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, now his third season with the team. This is also the 2nd consecutive year Dadonov has represented Russia in the World Juniors. While he failed to record a point in last year's World Juniors, Dadonov already has notched 4 points (G, 3 A) in 2 games. Russia, who dominated Latvia 4-1 on Friday (the opening day of World Juniors action), will take on Slovakia on Tuesday.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

David Rundblad scores as Sweden rolls over Finland 3-1 in the World Juniors opener

Defenseman David Rundblad beat Finnish goaltender Harri Sateri for a 1st period goal, which proved to be the game-winner in a 3-1 victorylast night in the opening game of the 2009 World Junior Championships. Rundblad currently plays for Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League. where he has tallied 6 assists to go along with a +5 rating. Rundblad is eligible for the 2009 NHL Draft and has been projected as a first round pick. Up next for Sweden is Slovakia on Sunday night at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ilya Kovalchuk surpasses the 500-point mark with a two-assist night

Congratulations to PuckAgency client Ilya Kovalchuk, who with his two-assists in a 4-2 Atlanta win over the Islanders last night, now has 501 points (in 500 games) in his NHL career! Also of note is that Ilya is currently 11th among forwards in ice time per game (21:28). Kovy and the Thrashers will now enjoy the NHL's two-day Christmas and then return to action Friday night at home vs. the Hurricanes.

Kovalchuk assists on game-winning and game-clinching goals

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Uniondale, N.Y. — Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t score a goal to celebrate his 500th NHL game. He did just about everything else.

Kovalchuk assisted on the game-winning and game-clinching goals Tuesday night in the Thrashers’ 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders. That gave him his 500th and 501st NHL points.

He also carried the puck all over the ice, blocked three shots and put four shots on net.

“It’s always good when we win,” Kovalchuk said when asked about achieving the scoring and games-played landmarks. “It’s a pretty good moment, but I hope it’s way more points in front of me and way more wins.

“I want to get more playoff experience. Hopefully, we’re going to be better, and I can get 500 games in the playoffs.”

Not everything is perfect in Kovalchuk’s world. His team heads to the Christmas break 13th in the Eastern Conference standings, and he went a sixth consecutive game without scoring a goal, matching his longest goal-less streak in five years.

Bryan Little filled the breach Tuesday night with a pair of goals, both on rebounds. His off-balance backhander following a Kovalchuk slap shot from the point broke a 2-2 tie 7:42 into the final period.

“It’s awesome,” Little said of sharing the power play with Kovalchuk. “I was pretty excited when I got drafted here, because he was someone I liked to watch on TV. He’s a great player. He’s just so skilled. Every day it’s a treat just to watch him.”

Kovalchuk’s other assist came when he passed to Colby Armstrong for an empty-net goal. Kovalchuk might have been able to beat a defender and score himself, but he chose the sure play to Armstrong. It was Armstrong’s fifth goal in as many games.

Kovalchuk has 11 goals, tied for third on the team behind Slava Kozlov’s 15 and Little’s 14. On his current pace, Kovalchuk would score 27 goals this season, the fewest in his career.

“When we’re losing and you don’t find the back of the net, that’s disappointing me a lot,” he said. “When you’re winning, you don’t care.”

Unfortunately for Kovalchuk and his teammates, they have only one more game against the Islanders. The Thrashers are 3-0 against the Islanders this season; that’s a quarter of Atlanta’s 12 victories.

The Islanders are winless in their last 10 games. The Thrashers have won three of their last five games but badly needed a victory Tuesday after a miserable showing Monday night in a 6-2 loss to Toronto.

Mathieu Schneider scored the first Atlanta goal on a shot from the point. Little made it 2-0 with a second-effort follow shot. The play began with Ron Hainsey’s shot from the point; Kozlov and White touched the puck before it reached Little.

White’s assist gave him the Thrashers’ longest scoring streak this season, seven games.

Tuesday night, though, the focus was on Kovalchuk, who’s still only 25, though in his seventh NHL season. He’s under contract with the Thrashers through 2009-10. He leads the franchise in career games played, goals (265), assists (236) and points.

“He’s a great player, and he’s going to score a lot more,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, it’s a lot more as an Atlanta Thrasher, his whole career’s spent here.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nikolai Khabibulin's stellar goaltending a major reason the Blackhawks are among the NHL's elite

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is making quite a case to be on the ice for the 2009 NHL All-Star game in Montreal. Entering today's action, Nik's .922 save percentage is good for 9th in the league and as Daily Herald beat writer Tim Sassone points out, the Blackhawks would be in major trouble had any team chosen to claim Khabibulin off of waivers prior to the start of the regular season. Khabibulin recently returned from a "lower-body" injury on December 12th and hasn't missed a beat, having won his last three starts (victories over Colorado, Edmonton and Calgary). Chicago has a long Christmas breek before returning home to face Philadelphia on Friday night.

Time to give Khabibulin his due

by Tim Sassone on Sat, 12/20/2008 - 02:14

CALGARY - Where would the Blackhawks be if another team had claimed Nikolai Khabibulin on waivers back in training camp?

They probably wouldn't be 17-6-7 today and the talk of the NHL.

Khabibulin has been nothing short of sensational for the Hawks, and he was just that again Friday night in the 3-2 overtime win over the Flames. As he has done most of the year, Khabibulin kept the Hawks in the game long enough for the offense to do its thing.
Khabibulin has lost once in regulation, his record now at 10-1-4. Once.

As we walked out of the Saddledome Friday night into the unbearable Alberta cold, Chris Kuc of the Tribune mentioned how Khabibulin should be going to the All-Star Game, and he is absolutely right.

All week the talk has been of Patrick Kane taking over the lead among Western Conference forwards in fan voting. Kane is an all-star, no doubt, but so is Khabibulin.

I know some of you posters out there still think the Hawks should trade Khabibulin to free salary cap space in order to acquire a top-six forward.

Sorry, no way can you trade Khabibulin now. Goaltending is the strength of this team and what GM Dale Tallon needs to do is ride Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet all the way to the finish line.

Khabibulin is a Stanley Cup-winning goalie. That's right, I said it. Stanley Cup. Can the Hawks win it? Who's to say they can't. Carolina did. Anaheim did. Khabibulin's Lightning did. It's certainly possible at this point.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just another day at the office for Pekka; Rinne silences Islanders

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne continued his outstanding play, stopping all 23 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders last night. Rinne, technically considered a rookie, improved his record to 7-1 to go along with a 2.31 GAA and .912 save percentage. Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz will be forced to go back to Rinne in the net when Nashville travels to Florida on Tuesday night.

December 21, 2008
Preds keep up defensive effort

Rinne completes his third shutout in last five games

By Jessica Bliss

A game against the defensively defective New York Islanders wasn't enough to turn the Predators' offensive struggles around, but getting a win Saturday helped to forget the scoring woes for a moment.

Nashville winger Vern Fiddler scored the game's only goal in the first period and gave the Predators a 1-0 win over the Islanders in front of 16,457 fans at Sommet Center.

It was the second consecutive game in which Fiddler collected the team's only goal and marked the fifth time in the last seven games that the Predators had been held to a single score.

"As long as we're winning there is less frustration," Predators Coach Barry Trotz said.

Backup goaltender Pekka Rinne kept Nashville on top, turning away all 23 shots and collecting his third shutout in his last five appearances.

It was a much-needed goaltending performance for a team that has scored just 84 goals (2.6 per game) this season. That total ties the Predators with Minnesota for the fewest goals in the Western Conference.

The Islanders have let in a league-high 120 goals this season (3.6 per game), and have lost nine consecutive games.

"Peks (Rinne) kept us in there every second of the way," said Predators Captain Jason Arnott, who skated in his 1,000th career game Saturday. "We are struggling on the goal department right now, but we are finding ways to win and that's what we have to do right now."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ufa's Alex Radulov leads KHL All-Star Game voting

December 15, 2008

By John Glennon

Russian star: After one week of fan voting for the inaugural Continental Hockey League all-star game, wayward Predators forward Alexander Radulov leads all players with 16,060 votes.

Radulov has posted 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 34 games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, the eighth-best total in the KHL.

The KHL all-star game will be played outdoors Jan. 10 in Moscow's Red Square .

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Lasse Kukkonen making his presence felt

Flyers defenseman Lasse Kukkonen played another strong game last night in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders in Philadelphia. Kukkonen, one of the top defenseman in Finland before he made the jump to the NHL, has returned to the lineup following an injury to defenseman Matt Carle and has impressed Flyers head coach John Stevens with his poised play with the puck. The Flyers are home for the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.

Posted on Wed, Dec. 10, 2008

Kukkonen strengthens his case

Sam Carchidi

Thrust into the lineup because of a back injury to Matt Carle, Lasse Kukkonen has given a strong account of himself on the third defensive pairing.

"He's been tremendous," coach John Stevens said before last night's game against the Islanders.

"He seems to create offensive opportunities for our team, and he doesn't get [many] scoring-chances-against when he's on the ice."

Kukkonen, 27, played in his fourth straight game last night and was paired with Luca Sbisa early in the contest. He had been a healthy scratch in 11 of the first 22 games.

"He pushes the pace in practice every day and has great enthusiasm," Stevens said. "He kind of sets the example for the guys who are out of your lineup - that if you do the extra work and stay ready, you can come in and be a good player."

Sitting out so often "is tough mentally, but at the same time, there are so many things in this business that you can't control," Kukkonen said. "You can't control your ice time or whether you're going to play or not. All you can do is try to be ready and try to be in shape."

Kukkonen is a lame duck of sorts. Having already cleared waivers, he probably will be sent to the Phantoms when Carle and Randy Jones (hip) return from injuries. Both could be in the lineup by Tuesday.

"Those things pop in your mind once in a while, but you have to put it behind you," Kukkonen said. "If something happens, it happens. I just try to do my job when I get my chance."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lethbridge G Juha Metsola stops 37 shots in a 4-3 OT win over Medicine Hat

Lethbridge goaltender Juha Metsola saved 37 of 40 shots last night as the Hurricanes won their 7th game in a row. Metsola is now tied for 5th in save percentage (.909) and 9th in goals-against-average (2.69) in the WHL. Juha and the Hurricanes take on Kamloops tonight at the Enmax Centre.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pekka Rinne records his second shutout in a week

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped all 32 shots he faced last night in a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Wild, and improved his record to 6-0. This was Rinne's second shutout in his last three starts. Goaltender Dan Ellis was initially slated to start, but was scratched due to a injury during practice. Pekka answered the call and has now save 81 of the last 83 shots he has faced; his 2 shutouts are tied for 3rd in the NHL. Rinne will get his 4th consecutive start in net when the Predators travel to St. Louis Tuesday night.

Preds' Rinne just cares about wins

David Boclair, dboclair@nashvillecitypaper.com

Pekka Rinne is a bottom-line kind of goalie.

The Nashville Predators’ 6-foot-5 rookie measures his success by one statistic – wins. In that regard, he has been perfect this season.

“That’s the biggest stat for me – wins,” Rinne said. “Obviously, it doesn’t hurt me to get a couple of wins. That means I might get a few more games.

“That’s the only goal for the whole team – to get the ‘W.’”

Rinne made just 19 saves in defeating Colorado, his fewest in a victory this season. He also never let the Avalanche score a go-ahead goal, which was decidedly different than some of his previous performances.

Rinne’s first career shutout, Monday at Buffalo, earned him the right to play against Colorado. He also defeated Atlanta 4-3 on Nov. 28 – another game in which the Predators never trailed – and thus has been in the nets for the team’s last three victories.

Prior to this season the 2004 eighth-round draft choice had appeared in a just three NHL games total and had a 1-1 record.

“I’ve played a few games now in a row and things start to feel pretty normal,” he said. “I’m kind of getting used to NHL speed and NHL skill level and stuff like that.”

“Between (Rinne) and (Ellis) I think our goaltending is lining up very well,” Trotz said. “The ratio is really good right now – Ellis is getting probably two-thirds of the games. That sets us up real well for from now hopefully until the end of the season.”

“Pekka does what he does,” Trotz said. “He seals the ice. He’s a big body. He’s got great instincts and reflexes and more than anything it’s confidence for a goaltender. When they feel good about themselves they move well and they’ve got flow."

“Now that he’s got a couple games under his belt and he has some success he feels good about himself.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pekka Rinne does it again, stops 19 shots vs. Colorado, remains undefeated

Pekka Rinne improved his record to 5-0, while helping Nashville 3-2 win in Colorado last night. Rinne's career record is now 6-1 to go along with a career GAA of 2.63 and career SV% of .903. Nashville will be hardpressed not to put Pekka back in the net on Saturday night when the Predators battle the Wild.

December 5, 2008

By John Glennon

Undefeated: Goalie Pekka Rinne improved to 5-0 this season by stopping 19 of 21 Colorado shots. Rinne was actually pulled from two games this season after surrendering a flurry of early goals, but Nashville rallies in those games meant Rinne didn't suffer the losses.

"The biggest stat for me is the wins,'' Rinne said.

"I've played a few games now and I am getting used to the NHL speed and skill level.''

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pekka Rinne to start his second consecutive game tomorrow night vs. Colorado

Nashville's Pekka Rinne will start tomorrow night in goal when the Predators take on the Colorado Avalanche. Rinne currently has a 2.78 goals-against average and .898 save percentage and was the NHL's First Star for Monday night's action.

December 3, 2008, 2:15pm

Rinne to start for Predators against Avalanche

By John Glennon

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne will make his third start in four games when Nashville plays host to Colorado on Thursday.

Dan Ellis had been scheduled to start, but the Predators have an informal rule about sticking with a goaltender who has produced a shutout. Rinne earned his first NHL shutout on Monday, stopping 30 shots in a 2-0 win over Buffalo.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Alexander Radulov's two goals lead 1st place Ufa over Spartak Moscow

Alexander Radulov scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season in Ufa's 5-1 win over Spartak Moscow last night. Radulov is currently tied for 11th in the KHL in points (28) and tied for 7th in +/- (+19). Ufa leads the KHL in points with 71, having won 21 out of 30 games and nearly doubling their opponents in the process (118 GF, 60 GA). Ufa will host Spartak Moscow in the 2nd half of a home and home.

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne earns first career NHL shutout

Congratulations to PuckAgency client Pekka Rinne on his first career NHL shutout!

Rinne stopped 30 saves en route to a 2-0 win in Buffalo last night. Pekka, from Kempele, Finland, was making only his 6th start of the season (and appearing in his 9th career NHL game) and improved his record to 4-0. Rinne, who appeared in the 2007-08 AHL All-Star game for the Milwaukee Admirals, is signed with Nashville through the 2009-10 season. The Predators take on the red-hot Colorado Avalanche Thursday night at the Sommet Center.

December 2, 2008

By John Glennon

Picking Pekka: Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made the most of his second start in three games, posting 30 saves and registering the first shutout of his career.

Rinne was in the net for a 4-3 overtime victory Friday, while Dan Ellis suffered a 6-2 loss to Minnesota on Saturday. But Predators Coach Barry Trotz said the choice of Rinne on Monday was more related to the schedule than anything else.

Trotz wants Ellis well-rested when the Predators on Thursday begin a stretch of seven straight — and 14 of 16 — Western Conference games.

"Ellie is going to see a lot of the nets upcoming, so from that standpoint, it was good to get Pekka in the nets and give him some work,'' Trotz said. "It was a really good game from Pekka. He made couple (of) big, timely saves when we needed it.''