Brodeur Bests Giguere & Avs 1-0 in a Shootout

DEVILS 1                    COLORADO 0

New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was named the game’s first star in his squad’s 1-0 shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at the Prudential Center. The losing goalie, Jean-Sebastian Giguere, was named second star — a reversal of what occurred when the two netminders squared off in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals when Brodeur had three shutouts in his four wins in the series and Giguere walked away with the MVP (Conn Smythe Trophy).

Brodeur confirmed, when asked, that he thought about his match-up with Giguere in the Finals during the match tonight. “Yeah, it went through my mind a little bit. We had some good battles in that series, there’s no doubt about that; it’s definitely different circumstances now though. It was a fun game, I’m sure he felt it too. It was a good goaltending battle.”

Both goalies were as sharp as a skate blade in this game — Brodeur finished with 28 saves over the 65 minutes of hockey and Giguere had 33. They also played a close, yet disciplined game as there were only two penalties (both hooking) and each team went 0-for-1 on the power play. “Both goaltender’s were great tonight,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer. “That was a playoff-type game; stay out of the box, stick with it, don’t make a mistake. It’s great preparation for playoff hockey.”

One of the highlights of regulation was when Brodeur denied Milan Hejduk’s in-close rebound attempt with his toe, forcing the puck to stray away from the net. “I didn’t expect the guy to shoot, I think it was a 3-on-1 or something,” said Brodeur, recalling the save. “The guy took a shot for a rebound, and that’s what I did (laughs) I gave up a rebound. My balance was good, I was able to stay on my knee and keep my skate there to block the puck. After that he kind of lost it and it hit the side of the net. That was a good one there.”

Ilya Kovalchuk went first again in the shootout as he had eleven previous times and he netted his tenth goal in the tiebreaker after waiting out Giguere before beating him with a wrist shot. Brodeur denied Hejduk’s wrist shot, getting a piece of the Colorado captain’s shot before it rang off the post and caromed away.

Zach Parise also scored on his attempt after faking out the Avs goalie with two moves and then scoring on the third. Peter Mueller needed to score for Colorado to keep the game alive, but his soft wrist shot was gobbled up by Brodeur’s glove, sealing his team’s fifth win over their last six games.

Kovalchuk now has seven game-deciding shootout goals, setting a new NHL record, breaking a tie with Adrian Aucoin (2009-10); he has eleven career shootout winners, two shy of the NHL record of 13 held by Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Toronto’s Phil Kessel.

Game Notes: Both goalies get credited for a shutout, Brodeur’s NHL record is extended to 118; Giguere recorded blanking number 36 of his career. Brodeur now has 651 career wins, 100 more than Patrick Roy’s previous record, which he equaled three years and one day ago. Kovalchuk led all skaters in ice-time with 25:22, while defenseman Jan Hejda led Colorado with 24:28. Kovalchuk and David Jones of the Avalanche led all players with six shots on goal each. New Jersey (87 points, 6th in East) is back on the ice Saturday afternoon in their retro jerseys when they host Pittsburgh (91 points, 4th in East) and Colorado (81 points, 7th in West) will play at MSG against the NY Rangers (95 points, 1st in East) on Saturday night.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Martin Brodeur (NJ): 28 saves, win (26), shutout (2)
#2 — J.S. Giguere (Col): 33 saves, ot loss (3), shutout (2)
#3 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ): shootout winning goal (7)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com

Devils End 2011 with Win Over Pittsburgh

Devils 3            Pittsburgh 1

The New Jersey Devils closed out another successful month and ended 2011 with a bang, topping the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Saturday afternoon at Prudential Center. The win ensured that New Jersey would begin 2012 in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a big change after starting 2011 near the bottom of the standings and it also pulled them three points behind the Penguins.

Martin Brodeur brought his ‘A’ game and stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, while Ilya Kovalchuk led the Devils offense with a penalty shot goal and two assists. The loss for Pittsburgh was their second in a row and the game was their tenth in a row without the concussed-again Sidney Crosby. But the Pens did have Evgeni Malkin, who entered the game on a nine-game point streak and was named the number one star of the NHL for the month of December.

“As a unit, we look like we feel a lot more comfortable with each other in knowing what to expect,” said Brodeur afterwards. “A big change, I think we cut our losses defensively if it’s going a little chaotic in our zone — we aren’t afraid to take an icing or just throw the puck off the glass and out of the zone. Early on we were always trying to make plays and plays and plays; sometimes that last play ends up in the back of our net. Lately we’ve been just a little more careful about these things, and I think it shows in the result of the way we’ve played lately.”

The game was 0-0 until 5:17 remained in the opening period when Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was penalized for covering the puck in the crease with his hand, awarding the Devils with a penalty shot. Kovalchuk was chosen to shoot by New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer; he skated in towards Marc-Andre Fleury, made a few fakes and then fired a shot into the back of the net through teh goalie’s legs for his 12th goal of the season. “You get to shoot from an angle where you can do some (different) things,” said Kovalchuk who has now scored on two of his three career penalty shot attempts. “You can shoot top left, you can go five-hole, or you can shoot from your backhand; you have to make the goalie try to think about what you are going to do. ”

Just under five minutes later with two Penguins in the penalty box the Devils doubled their lead to 2-0 when David Clarkson pushed Patrik Elias’ wrist shot over the goal line behind Fleury at 19:36. On the play Kovalchuk’s original shot deflected to Elias who fired a strong shot that his the goal post, then Fleury’s butt and then Clarkson found the disc along the goal line for his 13th goal of the season.

One of the Penguins best chances to score came with just over eight minutes left to play in the second period when Brodeur robbed Tyler Kennedy with a sliding two-pad glove save.

Brodeur lost his bid for his first shutout of the season when Chris Kunitz collected a wide shot and stuffed it into the net with 10:35 left in regulation. He was able to keep the score 2-1 though when he denied Matt Cooke’s point-blank one-timer from the slot with 4:30 left to play in the game. “I had a really good angle on Kennedy’s shot, but Cooke made a really good play when he shoveled the puck right towards me and I was able to get my glove up.”

New Jersey captain Zach Parise netted his 13th goal of the season into an empty net with 49.5 seconds left to secure the year-ending win for the Devils, who improved to 21-15-1 — a huge turnaround from where they were one calendar year ago. “I love those empty-netters,” said Kovalchuk with a smile. “When you score them, that means you win the game.”

“Marty made some huge saves tonight,” said Parise afterwards, “more importantly, he made them at some pretty critical times of the game; breakaways, two-on-ones, big saves late in the game. He was outstanding today.”

Game Notes: Kovalchuk now has 41 points in 38 career games against Pittsburgh; Elias had two assists and leads the with 21 assists and 34 points. Devils defenseman Mark Fayne led all skaters in ice-time with 24:23 while Malkin led Pittsburgh with 23:59. Malkin led all players with six shots on goal, Kovalchuk led New Jersey with five; rookie Adam Larsson led all players with three hits and two blocked shots.

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:

#1 — Martin Brodeur (NJ) — 29 saves, win (11-9-0)
#2 — Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) — goal (12), 2 assists (18)
#3 — Patrik Elias (NJ) — 2 assists (21)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com

Off the Ice with Bryce Salvador

The New Jersey Devils have always been built around defense and goaltending, and after the departures of defensemen Scott Stevens (retirement), Ken Daneyko (retirement), Scott Niedermayer (free agency) and Brian Rafalski (free agency) many wondered how the team could lose so many linchpins and still stay competitive. GM Lou Lamoriello has tried to rebuild the defense and drafted a key piece in Adam Larsson at this past June’s NHL Entry Draft, but one player who could anchor the new-age Devils defense is Bryce Salvador who was acquired from St. Louis on February 26, 2008.

Salvador, a ten-year NHL veteran, missed all of last season with post-concussion syndrome but has returned in 2011-12 to solidify New Jersey’s defense corps (along with oft-injured Anton Volchenkov). The 35-year-old has played in 645 games over his career, compiling 97 points (23g-74a) and now in his fourth season with the Devils, he seems to have found a niche under new coach Pete DeBoer as he is routinely among the ice-time leaders for the team.

Recently I sat down with Salvador to talk about his career, his interests away from the game and some of his memories:

Dan Rice: I’m assuming that you have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season after what you went through last season?

Bryce Salvador: Definitely, it’s a great feeling to be back after missing the whole season, I feel fortunate to be back and playing in the NHL.

DR: Does a year off from hockey extend your playing career another year?

BS: Hopefully a few more years (smiles). My body is definitely rested after a whole year of no hockey games.

DR: What do you remember about your draft day?

BS: That I was the first guy not to be there (laughs)! It was pretty exciting just to be drafted, getting that call from Tampa Bay; it was a great feeling.

DR: What do you remember about your first goal?

BS: It was one of those plays where the puck came to me at the blueline, I believe it was against Chicago; Pierre Turgeon passed it back to me, I walked in and fired a shot that went in top shelf.

DR: Do you still have that puck?

BS: Yup. I have it at home, framed and everything.

DR: Who is your best friend in the NHL?

BS: There’s a lot of guys over the years that I’ve made pretty good acquaintances with, right now David Clarkson and I are pretty close, but I wouldn’t say one player more than another.

DR: Who is the funniest guy on the Devils?

BS: For the most part the guys are pretty quiet; (big smile) Dainius Zubrus is just funny…funny-looking maybe. He’s a pretty lively guy in our room.

DR: Is there any player in the league that you don’t look forward to playing against?

BS: Oh geez, the other teams all usually have two solid lines. But obviously guys like (Alex) Ovechkin, (Sidney) Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin, (Martin) St. Louis, (Steven) Stamkos and (Rick) Nash — just to name a few. There are a lot of great players and each one poses a unique threat in their own way.

DR: What was it like playing in St. Louis?

BS: It was a great time; that organization took a chance on me, signing me as an unrestricted free agent out of juniors and gave me an opportunity. I was pretty fortunate to play the beginning of my career with Hall-of-Famer Al MacInnis for a couple of years; it was a pretty nice start to my career.

DR: Do you have a favorite TV show?

BS: Modern Family.

DR: Favorite movie?

BS: Memento.

DR: What’s on your iPod these days?

BS: Whatever my wife puts on it (laughs)!
Thanks for reading, if there is a player you would like read an interview with submit your suggestions and also questions:

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Three More Weeks Until Hockey is Back…

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote, so I will try to cover a variety of topics here:

Congrats to the Boston Bruins who won the Stanley Cup in a Game 7 @ Vancouver. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron were off the charts in that series, and Tim Thomas’ performance was legendary. That Claude Julien guy that coaches the B’s is pretty good, it’d be nice if the Devils had a coach like that…

The Atlanta Thrashers (and their fugly uniforms) are gone and the Winnipeg Jets are back! It’s a shame they won’t be wearing the old uniforms, but a new beginning does deserve a new look and I think I like what I saw from the logo and the uniform scheme.

My sincere and deepest condolences to the families of all of the hockey players that passed away this summer. I am still trying to wrap my head around what happened in Russia with the plane crash and I still cannot erase the images of Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek and Alexander Vasyunov’s faces from my mind; hopefully they didn’t suffer. They will all be missed and never, ever forgotten.

So the Philadelphia Flyers brought in Ilya Bryzgalov to play goal this season, making him the 500th goalie they have employed since Martin Brodeur became a New Jersey Devil and the 1,000th netminder since they last won the Cup in 1975. They also traded their two best players — Jeff Carter and Mike Richards — in separate deals that did not bring back equal value and signed 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr. Good luck with that.

It seems certain that Sidney Crosby won’t be ready for the start of the season, but could suit up at some point in 2011-12. Concussions are a delicate issue and Crosby’s career could be derailed like Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya before him. Intentional head shots must be eliminated from the game, but certain players (ahem Criesby…) are also responsible for protecting themselves and need to stop admiring their passes.

Don’t be surprised if the New York Islanders (that’s right, I said it) make the playoffs this season. IF they can stay healthy! John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson seem primed to have big seasons and hopefully Evgeni Nabokov can add some stability to what has been a blue cross and blue shield crease the last few seasons.

The Rangers added the biggest fish in the free-agent pool in Brad Richards, but have we not learned anything over the past six seasons — the team that signs the top free agent never wins the Cup. They did make one right move this summer — naming Ryan Callahan their new captain.

The Devils had a semi-quiet offseason after selecting Adam Larsson with the 4th pick in the NHL Entry Draft. They were able to rid themselves of Colin White and Brian Rolston’s ridiculous contracts, and they were able to re-sign Andy Greene and Johan ‘Moose’ Hedberg. Both Bryce Salvador and Zach Parise have been cleared to start the season, but Travis Zajac may not be back until December after tearing his achilles tendon during an off-ice workout; Zajac’s team record consecutive games streak will end at 401. Cam Janssen is back with NJ and Petr Sykora could be too — he will be in training camp on a tryout basis. The new coach is Peter DeBoer who was fired from the Florida Panthers, the same DeBoer who helped the Cats reach 94 points a few years back — a remarkable feat in itself with the roster he was given. I predict Mattias Tedenby will net at least 20 goals this season and Jacob Josefson will have 30 assists as they help lead the Devs back to the playoffs after last season’s hiccup.

Boston begins defense of it’s Championship on opening night (October 6); the Rangers open in Sweden against the LA Kings the following day (October 7); the Islanders (vs. Florida) and Devils (vs. Philly) both begin their seasons on Saturday October 8; and the new Winnipeg/old Atlanta team makes it’s debut on Sunday October 9 vs. Montreal.

Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Who Will Be the Beast of the East?

Eastern Conference predictions

Round 1:

(1) Washington over (8) NY Rangers

(7) Buffalo over (2) Philadelphia

(3) Boston over (6) Montreal

(4) Pittsburgh over (5) Tampa Bay

Round 2:

(1) Washington over (7) Buffalo

(3) Boston over (4) Pittsburgh

Round 3:

(3) Boston over (1) Washington

Washington (1)      vs.    NY Rangers (8)

Last Cup Win: Washington (never), NY Rangers (1994)

Why the Capitals will win: They aren’t intimidated by the Rangers or their goaltender whom has been known to get in some of his opponents’ heads (see: New Jersey Devils). Washington is also one of the deepest teams in the league and they will wear their undermanned first round opponent down.

Why the Rangers will win: They spanked Washington twice this season (6-0, 7-0) and when they are on their game, the Blueshirts have all of the necessary components to go toe-to-toe with any team in the league; solid goaltending, timely scoring and team defense will lead New York to the upset win over the Caps.

Washington’s most important player: Tempted to say Alex Ovechkin, but it’s Mike Green; if he is healthy and has fresh legs he could bury the Rangers (a team that has taken a penalty or two) with his power play prowess.

New York’s most important player: The soul of the Rangers is Henrik Lundqvist, if he falters, they are cooked. He’s only won two playoff series in his career, but his league-leading 11 shutouts this season tell you that he is capable of shutting down any team in the NHL.

Washington’s biggest question mark: It has to be the goaltending, despite the fact that they won the East with three goaltenders — two of them rookies. Michal Neuvirth will get the nod to begin the series, and that’s probably the right call. He won back-to-back Calder Cups for the Hershey Bears and was victorious in 27 of his 48 starts with the Caps this season.

New York’s biggest question mark: Which version of Marian Gaborik will show up in this series? Will it be the same Gaborik that had only 48 points (22 goals) in 62 games this season or will he become the two-time 40-goal scorer that the Rangers are paying for?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Washington (Jason Arnott, Mike Knuble), New York (Chris Drury, Ruslan Fedotenko)

PREDICTION: CAPITALS IN 6 — Gaborik and Lundqvist will show up and the Rangers will put up a fight, but Ovechkin will eliminate them with a hat trick in Game 6.

Philadelphia (2)     vs. Buffalo (7)

Last Cup Win: Philadelphia (1975), Buffalo (never)

Why the Flyers will win: Since the start of last season’s playoffs Philadelphia has probably been the best team in the NHL. With the talent on this roster they should walk all over the Sabres, but only if their power play finds itself. This season they ranked 19th in the NHL out of 30 teams, with a putrid 16.6%. Offensive juggernauts that were ranked ahead of them: Buffalo, Colorado, Atlanta, Minnesota and Ottawa.

Why the Sabres will win: They have Ryan Miller and the Flyers don’t; it’s as simple as that. He has won playoff series as the favorite and the underdog in his career, and Buffalo is the hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs. If Miller is at less than 100%, then the Sabres will be in trouble.

Philadelphia’s most important player: Chris Pronger’s presence alone will make a difference in the series, but only if he’s healthy enough to be there. His absence over the final weeks of the season is the reason the Flyers crashed and stumbled out of the East’s top spot.

Buffalo’s most important player: Aside from Miller, it’s Thomas Vanek who very quietly had a solid season — 73 points (32g-41a) in 80 games. If Drew Stafford can get into one of his hot streaks it will make a big difference in the series.

Philadelphia’s biggest question mark: As always since Ron Hextall left, it’s goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky will start Game 1, but lurking behind him are somewhat proven veterans in Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher.

Buffalo’s biggest question mark: Can Tyler Myers and the Sabres’ defensive corps stop the flock of talented Flyers forwards is a good place to start; also how will smallish rookie Tyler Ennis (who had a real nice season) hold up in a seven-game series against the rugged Philadelphians?

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Philadelphia (Nick Boynton, Sean O’Donnell, Pronger, Kris Versteeg), Buffalo (Rob Niedermayer)

PREDICTION: SABRES IN 7 — Miller shines as Buffalo wins a l-e-n-g-t-h-y Game 7 in Philadelphia.

Boston (3)       vs. Montreal (6)

Last Cup Win: Boston (1972), Montreal (1993)

Why the Bruins will win: Boston’s depth is only matched by Washington in the East as far as I’m concerned, especially when your top three centers are Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Rich Peverley. The addition of Tomas Kaberle really balanced out the defense in Beantown too.

Why the Canadiens will win: If I had to pick one team in the East that would give Boston the biggest challenge, I’d say Montreal. These two teams know each other inside and out with all of their legendary battles throughout time. Also how will Boston react after blowing a three games-to-none lead in last year’s East semi-finals.

Boston’s most important player: Tim Thomas is the easy choice here, if he continues playing the way he did during the season (35-11-9, 2.00 GAA, .938 save %, 9 shutouts), the Bruins should be able to choke-out the sometimes offensively challenged Habs.

Montreal’s most important player: Where were you this season Scott Gomez? Horrible season (7g-31a, minus-15 in 80 games) from one of the veterans on the Canadiens, but during last spring’s run to the East Finals he put up 14 points in 19 games. If he can get on that type of run it would be much appreciated in Montreal.

Boston’s biggest question mark: The Bruins had a great year, but after choking away last season’s opportunity to beat the Flyers in the semis, anything less than a trip to the East Finals would be a failure. It will be interesting to see how they react if they get Montreal into an elimination game.

Montreal’s biggest question mark: Last season’s dramatic run was led by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who is now with the St. Louis Blues. Now it’s Carey Price’s turn and judging from the season he just had (38-28-6, 8 shutouts) he could be a difference maker, not only this season but for many, many more to come.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Boston (Mark Recchi (2), Shawn Thornton), Montreal (Gomez (2), Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Hal Gill, Brent Sopel)

PREDICTION: BRUINS IN 7 – Boston will bend, but won’t break as they hold off the Habs; Nathan Horton, playing in his first playoffs, will have a monster series.

Pittsburgh (4)                vs. Tampa Bay (5)

Last Cup Win: Pittsburgh (2009), Tampa Bay (2004)

Why the Penguins will win: They have an elite goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal will not only shut down Steven Stamkos, but he’ll also chip in a few big goals.

Why the Lightning will win: Without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, the Lightning can focus their attention on solid team defense and timely goals. Whether or not Stamkos and Simon Gagne can score multiple times will be determining factors in the series.

Pittsburgh’s most important player: It will be all of their penalty killers; they led the league killing off penalties at an 86.2% clip and if they can shut down Tampa’s powerful power play the series could be a quick one.

Tampa Bay’s most important player: If he becomes a playoff-beast once again, it will be the league’s second leading point getter Martin St. Louis (99 points). He’s a proven playoff performer (48 pts in 45 games) and if he gets hot the Pens will become postseason spectators.

Pittsburgh’s biggest question mark: If there is a small chance he can play, does Pittsburgh risk everything and put Crosby out there? If Crosby doesn’t play, who else besides Staal is going to contribute offensively?

Tampa Bay’s biggest question mark: In the 2006 playoffs, Dwayne Roloson led the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and then blew out his knee in Game 1. That was the last time he played in a playoff game, so five years later it’s hard to tell what you are going to get from the veteran netminder.

Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Pittsburgh (Chris Kunitz (2), Craig Adams (2), Fleury, Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Alex Kovalev, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy, Michael Rupp, Max Talbot, Eric Godard), Tampa Bay (Vincent Lecavalier, St. Louis, Pavel Kubina)

PREDICTION: PENGUINS IN 7 — The Lightning prove to be a valiant opponent but Fleury will top Roloson in a wild Game 7

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

Waiting For Kovalchuk…

A lot has happened since Ilya Kovalchuk (642 points in 621 NHL games) became the most talented free-agent in NHL history to hit the open market on July 1, but here we sit on July 18 and the Russian sniper (338 career goals) still hasn’t found a new home. New Jersey, which acquired him in a trade last season is still in the mix, and so are the in, out, in, out, in the Kovy-sweepstakes LA Kings. A third option could be the Russian KHL League, but a talented player in his prime like Kovalchuk needs to play in the league with the most talent and best competition — the NHL.

There are still very valuable players on the market besides Kovalchuk and it seems that the are all waiting for him to sign, before they decide where to go or maybe the other GMs are waiting to see where he lands — making for a very boring two weeks in July devoid of any substantial hockey news.  So, here’s what I am thinking about as we wait for Kovalchuk’s ‘decision’ to be made:

-The NY Islanders have made some solid, off the radar moves to shore up their blue line (Mark Eaton & Milan Jurcina), but more work needs to be done if they are to contend for a playoff spot out of the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. They should look to sign Alexei Ponikarovsky to play in the top-six and bring back two former Islanders to add more grit to their game — Andy Sutton & Raffi Torres. Sutton has said he would welcome a return to the Island and Torres would be a perfect fit on the third line alongside either Frans Nielsen or Doug Weight.

-What in the freaking world is going on in Calgary?!? They signed two ex-Flames, who both had less than stellar tenures the first time around. Alex Tanguay is a shell of the player he was in 2001 with Colorado and Olli Jokinen was traded away for Ales Kotalik and his ridiculous contract and then they re-sign Jokinen who never looked comfortable in Calgary alongside Jarome Iginla. A few days later ex-Tampa GM Jay Feaster as assistant to the GM who will be probably soon be fired in Darryl Sutter.

-There are still two solid goalies available — one via free agency (Marty Turco) and one via trade (Tim Thomas). It’s not every day you have these types of quality goalies available, so stop being cheap and give your team a decent chance to succeed next year (this means you Columbus, Toronto, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa, Montreal, Minnesota, LA, San Jose, Dallas).

-There are two enigmatic, but talented wingers available in Max Afinogenov and Alex Frolov and i haven’t heard peep about either yet. It’s possible that one of these two could wind up in the KHL, but in the right situation they can still be solid NHLers.

-Two talented centers are available for trade, but both have almost unmovable  contracts — Boston’s Marc Savard and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. Hey, maybe they should just be traded for each other?

-It seemed odd to me that: Pittsburgh signed defenseman Paul Martin from New Jersey, New Jersey signed Anton Volchenkov from Ottawa and Ottawa signed Sergei Gonchar from Pittsburgh. This is just my opinion but, a three-way trade during the season would have been soooooo much cooler!

-If the Devils don’t sign Kovalchuk, they should take a hard look at Miroslav Satan, and not just because of the name. Miro proved in the playoffs that he can still produce and help a winning team go deep into the spring.

-Four solid long-time NHL vets are still on the market. Would Mike Modano, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne & Bill Guerin have lasted this long on the open market ten summers ago in 2000? I think not. Modano may go to Detroit, which makes sense in a lot of ways. What if Kariya and Selanne sign one-year deals in Pittsburgh like they did in Colorado? Apparently Sidney Crosby felt he didn’t need Guerin’s leadership, so maybe Guerin could ride shotgun with AO in DC?

-Finally where in the world is Petr Sykora? The rest of your buddies from 2000 are in NJ…..A-LINE, ASSEMBLE!!!!

MacLean + Arnott = Devilicious

First off congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks and captain Jonathan Toews for winning the 2010 Stanley Cup; it looks like Toews and Patrick Kane are the next faces of the NHL — sorry Sidney Crosby, your time is up!

Earlier this week the Devils announced that the franchise leader in goals (347) John MacLean was named New Jersey’s new head coach. Johnny Mac was an assistant for several years until last season when he coached their AHL team (Lowell Devils) to their first playoff appearance in eons. Apparently that was enough seasoning for GM Lou Lamoriello, who was satisfied that MacLean is ready to take over the head coaching vacancy for the recently retired Jacques Lemaire. As far as I see it this is a safe move, but if the Devils struggle out of the gate I wouldn’t put it past Lamoriello that MacLean could get the axe by Thanksgiving. I doubt that will happen (you never know), but hopefully he can at least get the Devils out of the 1st round of the East in 2010-11. Also a nice touch that one of his assistants will be one of the classiest guys in the game, another old friend/coach, Larry Robinson.

Earlier this afternoon the Devils acquired an old friend in Jason Arnott from Nashville for young Matt Halischuk and a second round draft pick in 2011. Arnott is a hero in Devil-land, thanks in part to his double-overtime Cup-clinching goal in the 2000 Finals against Dallas. His presence gives New Jersey a bonafide no. 2 center behind Travis Zajac and should help to re-ignite Patrik Elias, who hasn’t been the same player he was before the lockout; it will also allow Elias to move back to his natural left wing position.

Could the other member of the high-scoring  ‘A-line’ (Petr Sykora) rejoin the Devils too? Highly unlikely, but again with Lamoriello, one never knows. Arnott is in the last year of a deal that will pay him $4.5 million this season, so if I had to guess I would say this could take the Devils out of the running to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk. However, if Trader Lou can move around a few more bodies (i.e. Brian Rolston), maybe Kovalchuk could still stay in NJ and give the Devils the best trio of left wingers (Zach Parise, Elias, Kovalchuk) in the NHL.

Next up: the NHL schedule is released on Tuesday, the NHL awards are on Wednesday and the 2010 NHL Draft is on Friday and Saturday. On July 1 free agency begins!!

Stay tuned, it’s sure to be a busy summer!