Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ilya Kovalchuk hits 40-goal mark once again

Atlanta Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 40th goal of the season and added an assist on Saturday night in a 6-3 win over Ottawa, marking the fifth consecutive season that he has hit the 40-goal plateau.  Kovalchuk must have impressed Russian National Team coach Slava Bykov, who along with his assistant coach, was on hand Saturday night at Philips Arena; Kovalchuk will likely play for Bykov at the IIHF World Championships, which take place in Switzerland next month.  Kovy was the hero at last year's World Championships in Quebec, as he scored the game-tying and game-winning goals against Canada to lead Russia to the Gold.  After a slow start to the season, Ilya now has scored 28 goals in his last 38 games, still leaving the possibility that he can reach the 50-goal mark, which he has already reached twice in his relatively young career. Kovalchuk was named captain earlier in the season, and from that point on, has taken off; he is now only 6 goals away from 300.  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Anton Babchuk's power play goal leads 'Canes over Senators

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Anton Babchuk scored a power play goal with just over 6 minutes remaining in the third period to edge the Ottawa Senators 2-1 last night.  Babchuk has been on fire in recent weeks; last night's goal was 13th of the season and his 4th in  the last 5 games.  Babchuk leads Carolina in plus-minus rating with a +12 rating and is second among the 'Canes defensemen in goals and points.  Carolina travels to New Jersey Saturday for a 7 PM start against the Devils.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Defenseman Anton Volchenkov to return for the Senators tonight

The A-Train is back on the tracks. Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov will return for the Senators tonight when they face the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes. Volchenkov missed Sunday night's game at the New York Rangers, with "bumps and bruises," likely coming from the multitude of shots that he puts himself in front of. Anton is currently ranked 8th in the NHL in blocked shots (155) despite missing 14 games due to injury. With only 10 games remaining, Ottawa is attempting to make an improbable run to capture the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nikolai Khabibulin returns to form with a near shutout against Los Angeles

Nikolai Khabibulin was minutes away from a shuout against the Los Angeles Kings yesterday at the United Center when Kings rookie defenseman Drew Doughty got his team on the board (at the 16:54 mark of the 3rd period). Khabibulin's solid day in net was overshadowed by the return of Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, who scored 2 goals in yesterday's victory. Khabibulin's win was his 18th of the season and his first since February 11. This comes after Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville indicated he would "ride" Khabibulin the rest of the way, as Chicago solidifies their playoff drive.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Anton Babchuk's two powerplay goals lead Carolina over New Jersey

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Anton Babchuk scored two powerplay goals last in a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at the RBC Center. This was the first two-goal game of the 6'5" defenseman's career, giving him 11 goals for the season, 6 of which have come on the powerplay. Anton is known for his booming shot from the point and thus has found himself as a mainstay on Carolina's first powerplay unit. Carolina head coach Paul Maurice had this to say about Babchuk, "He's got a huge shot. Boy, when he gets a chance to step into it, he's been real good. A lot of that is confidence. He's scored enough this year that he wants the puck, and there aren't a lot of guys who want to stand in front of it."Babchuk's plus/minus rating of +10 is tops among Carolina defensemen and is tied for the team lead with Matt Cullen. Carolina takes on the New York Islanders tomorrow night as they fight for their playoff lives.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Anssi Salmela scores first career NHL goal

Congratulations to PuckAgency client Anssi Salmela, who scored his first career NHL goal, an unassisted powerplay goal last night in a 5-1 Atlanta win over Washington, the Thrashers' sixth consecutive win. Salmela was acquired by Atlanta on March 4th in exchange for defenseman Niclas Havelid (sent to New Jersey). Anssi is known as a defenseman who likes to join the rush and who flourishes on the power play as he possesses a strong shot from the point. Last night, Salmela logged 21:50 and was a +2. Atlanta faces off against Pittsburgh tonight at the Igloo.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pekka Rinne sets Nashville franchise record for shutouts

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne made his way into the record books on Saturday night after making 18 saves in a 2-0 win over Phoenix at Jobing Arena. This was Pekka's seventh shutout of the season, breaking a franchise record for shutouts, previously held by Dan Ellis. Rinne is now top 5 in the league in shutouts, save percentage (.923) and goals against average (2.21). The Predators are currently on a West coast roadtrip, and take on the Los Angeles Kings tonight. They will then travel to Anaheim on Wednesday and then on to San Jose for a Thursday night tilt.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

'Hawks happy to have Khabby back

Nikolai Khabibulin returns to the net today for Chicago as the Blackhawks take on the NY Islanders at the United Center.  Chicago was defeated 5-3 by Columbus on Friday and the Blackhawks' lead for 4th place in the Western Conference over Vancouver is now only 4 points. Khabby last played February 11 vs. Atlanta. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pekka Rinne healthy again, could be in goal tomorrow night vs. the New York Rangers

Pekka Rinne was a welcome addition to Nashville's practice today. Pekka had been fighting the flu for about a week. Rinne could be in the net tomorrow night in a crucial meeting with the New York Rangers. Pekka trails only Columbus rookie sensation Steve Mason in shutouts; Mason made 35 saves last night to get his 9th of the season, a 2-0 blanking of Boston. Nashville's six-game winning streak came to an end last night in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Capitals.

Rinne returns to practice
by John Glennon at 3/11/2009 2:10 PM CDT

Pekka Rinne, who missed Tuesday’s game with the flu, was back at practice on Wednesday and said he should be ready to go on Thursday. Trotz didn’t commit to going with Rinne or sticking with Ellis, who had a strong 42-save game on Tuesday.

The Preds reassigned Drew MacIntyre to Milwaukee as a result of Rinne’s return.

Nikolai Khabibulin could return as soon as Friday

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin could return to action as soon as Friday vs. Columbus or Sunday afternoon vs. the New York Islanders. For the first time since dealing with a lower-body injury, Khabibulin skated with the entire team yesterday and has been making steady progress recently.

Published: 3/11/2009 12:01 AM
Khabibulin might be back in net soon

By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin returned to practice Tuesday and could be back in the Blackhawks' lineup this weekend.

"He's much better today," coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was nice to see him in practice, and he looked pretty good, too. We'll visit with him (Wednesday) as far as exactly when he'll play, but he's close."

Khabibulin has missed the last 12 games with a groin injury.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ilya Kovalchuk stays hot, comes through with another multi-point game as Thrashers douse Flames

Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 36th goal in yesterday afternoon's 5-2 win over Calgary. Kovy is now tied for third in the league in goals and he has climbed into the top 20 in points (76). The Thrashers won consecutive games over the weekend, blanking Montreal 2-0 on Friday night.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Kovalchuk stays hot

With a goal and an assist Sunday, Kovalchuk has 15 goals and 26 points in his past 13 games.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Nikolai Khabibulin inching closer to a return

There appears to be good news on the injury front for Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. There is no timetable for his return, but he has been skating with the team and could return to practice in the near future. Chicago travels to Boston tomorrow for a 1 PM face-off with the Bruins.

Published: 3/6/2009 12:02 AM

By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Making progress: Nikolai Khabibulin, out since Feb. 11 with a groin injury, had a third straight day of solid work on the ice Wednesday, although he didn't practice with the team.

"We're seeing real good progress over the last couple of days," Joel Quenneville said. "That's three days in a row on the ice, so I think it won't be too long before he's inserted into practice."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

HPK's Jussi Makkonen named SM-Liiga Player of the Month for February

Today, HPK forward Jussi Makkonen was named Player of the Month in SM-Liiga for the month of February. Makkonen is currently the leading goal scorer (27) in the Finnish Elite League and ranks 3rd in points (58). The 24-year old undrafted forward is a native of Turku, Finland and is in his first full season with HPK.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Finnish defenseman Anssi Salmela heads to Atlanta in return for Niclas Havelid

Anssi Salmela is headed to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for defenseman Niclas Havelid. Havelid was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and so Atlanta didn't want to let him go for nothing. In Salmela, the Thrashers acquire a younger (24 years old) offensive-minded defenseman who does some of his best work on the power play.

Ilya Kovalchuk named NHL's 3rd Star for week ending March 1, NHL's 1st Star for month of February

Atlanta Thrashers LW Ilya Kovalchuk continued his torrid pace Saturday night by scoring 2 goals and adding 3 assists in Atlanta's 5-3 comback win over Carolina. Kovalchuk has amassed 17 points (10 G, 7 A) in his last 7 games, moving him to 7th in the NHL in points (71). At the midpoint of the season, it appeared very unlikely that Kovy would reach the 50-goal plateau, but now, with 21 games remaining for the Thrashers, this plateau is well within Ilya's reach.

Thrashers surge past Hurricanes

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Saturday, February 28, 2009

There is no hotter player in the NHL these days than Ilya Kovalchuk, and he has made the Thrashers a suddenly dangerous team.

Kovalchuk scored an NHL-best 13 goals in February and capped the month with a two-goal, three-assist game in Saturday night’s 5-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The victory gave the Thrashers their first winning month since 2007 and a 4-2-1 record in their past seven games. Kovalchuk has scored in nine of the past 10 games. His five points Saturday tied a career high.

“When Kovy hounds the puck, when he wants it, you can see it in his eyes, almost, that’s when you know he’s going to play a good game,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “The last period and a half of this game, that’s what you saw. He took over. … When you see that little spark in his eye, that’s when you know the other team had better be ready.”

The Thrashers trailed 3-1 before scoring four goals in the final 10 minutes. Rich Peverley scored two of those, including the game-winner with 1:28 left. It was an impressive stretch of hockey against a Carolina team that came into Philips Arena tied for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.

“If we’re going to play like that, we’re going to win a lot of hockey games,” Kovalchuk said.

It’s too late for the Thrashers to make the playoffs but not too late for them to affect who does. The Thrashers head into March with a schedule filled with games that have a lot of meaning, at least to the other team. All but three of Atlanta’s final 19 games come against teams in playoff position or teams that headed into Saturday within a point of a playoff spot.

Only one NHL team has fewer points in the standings than the Thrashers, but the Thrashers have been playing much better than that record lately.

“I think what’s happening here is you’re seeing a little belief in the team and the system and in each other,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we can carry it on throughout the year. I know it’s maybe a little late now, but at least we’re seeing some progress.”

Saturday night’s announced crowd of 17,796 was the Thrashers’ largest since the season opener, but it had little to cheer until the final 10 minutes.

Carolina led 3-1 thanks to first-period goals by Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov and a third-period power-play goal by Anton Babchuk.

But the Thrashers rallied. Marty Reasoner put the puck on net, and Peverley squeezed it past Cam Ward at the 10:25 mark.

“I took about four whacks at it,” Peverley said. “I don’t think he knew where it was.”

A few minutes later, Kovalchuk was so sure he had scored the equalizer he raised his stick in celebration. Ward somehow stopped the puck but couldn’t prevent a rebound, and Todd White knocked it in.

A slashing penalty on Tim Gleason created the power play for Peverley’s game-winner. Peverley carried the puck in from the left boards and lifted the puck past Ward high on the far side.

Kovalchuk added an empty-net goal with three seconds left.

Kovalchuk’s first goal came with 34 seconds left in the second period, and it was key for the Thrashers. It “gave them life,” Carolina’s Eric Staal said.

And no hockey player is living better these days than Kovalchuk.

Stellar season continues for Pekka Rinne

Since Pekka Rinne has taken over the starting goaltending job in Nashville, he has really taken off. Saturday night's 8-0 thumping of Detroit marked Pekka's sixth shutout of the season, tying a franchise-record previously set by Dan Ellis last year. Rinne is now tied for second in the NHL in shuouts, only trailing Steve Mason, another Calder Trophy candidate who has 8 shutouts. Entering tonight's action, Rinne is currently among the top 3 in SV% (.926), GAA (2.15) and shutouts, quite an accomplishment for the 26 year-old, who entering this season, had only appeared in 3 NHL games. The Predators are one point behind the 8th place Anaheim Ducks, but have one game in hand.

March 1, 2009

Pekka Rinne ties shutout mark

By John Glennon

The Predators' offensive outburst in Saturday's 8-0 win over Detroit was so shocking that it overshadowed another stellar effort by goalie Pekka Rinne.

Rinne stopped 30 shots for his sixth shutout of the season, tying the franchise mark set by Dan Ellis last season.

Rinne's best save came just over two minutes into the second period, when — while seated in the crease — he robbed Tomas Kopecky, extending his arm almost over the goal line to glove Kopecky's quick wrist shot.

"That, to me, was a signature save,'' Predators Coach Barry Trotz said. "Guys realized, 'Let's get it back on track here and not let them get any momentum.'''