Kozlov unhappy with Thrashers coaching

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Kozlov.jpgThe Atlanta Thrashers had a chance to make the playoffs, when the
teams above them in the Eastern Conference started faltering down the
stretch. The team never seemed to be able to step up to the challenge,
losing several big games that would have put them into a playoff
position.

Some are saying it’s just a matter of a mediocre team
falling short, while others are calling for a change in the front
office
. Slava Kozlov, bitter and angry after another disappointing
season, is unhappy with the coaches. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution has the quotes. Here is but a
taste:

“I felt pressure since training camp.
Coach told me he has pressure
from upstairs. I talked to [GM] Don [Waddell], he said he never talked
to the coach. Somebody is lying. I don’t want to know what happened and
who is lying. I feel like I don’t deserve to be treated like that. Right
now, it’s over. The last game, I have lots of support from the fans. I
don’t know maybe it was because I’m not coming back next year or it’s my
last game but it was nice last night.”

 “This system, for two years they tell us it’s going to work but
unfortunately everybody knows what we are going to do. Our breakouts, we
make two, three passes in our zone and we don’t beat anybody. I saw
that in the New Jersey game. New Jersey just waited in the neutral zone
and we make two or three passes and make one mistake in neutral zone and
boom, they counter attack us. …

Kozlov, 37, finished with just 8 goals and 26 points this past season
and saw his minutes on the ice diminish as the season came to a close.
He would go on to say that he felt the coaching staff was just having
fun, not taking the game seriously and not preparing the team correctly.
He felt this Thrashers team was the best they’ve had, and them falling
short of the playoffs should rest on the coaching staff.

More after jump, including a response from the coach.

Vivlamore was able to get a response from coach John Anderson today:

“He could have spoken to me. The door is always open. I played him
that
last game. That’s how much respect I had for him. I didn’t want it to
come to this. Quite honestly, if you look back on it if he had the type
of season he had the year before, would we be having this conversation.”

Anderson would fire right back saying how Kozlov is just a player who
is frustrated with not playing up to his standards this past season,
and how his rigid style of play and approach contrasted Anderson’s free
and easy manner of coaching the team.

Anderson is right on one thing: the coach ultimately has the
responsibility for when the team fails. But it’s not as if he didn’t try
to get the team to succeed; he changed the lines around, and made tough
decisions to scratch the established but underachieving players on the
team.

He even suggests Kozlov spends time in the minors to find his love of
the game again.

One thing is certain: Vyacheslav Kozlov will not be playing for the
Thrashers next season.

2016 Lady Byng finalists: Barkov, Eriksson and Kopitar

Slovenia forward Anze Kopitar, left, and Sweden forward Loui Eriksson battle for the puck in the second period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The low penalty minutes and high point totals are in, and thus we have the 2016 NHL Awards’ three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy: Aleksander Barkov, Loui Eriksson and Anze Kopitar.

OK, the actual definition for the award is that it goes “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

Same difference, eh?

Barkov really made a breakthrough this season with the Florida Panthers, scoring 59 points versus just eight penalty minutes. He only has 34 PIM in 191 career regular season contests.

You can see Eriksson and Kopitar representing their respective countries in this post’s main image. Eriksson enjoyed his best (and maybe last?) season with the Boston Bruins while Kopitar hopes to win the 2016 Selke as the Los Angeles Kings’ defensively adept – yet apparently courteous – forward.

It’s unclear who wins this “fight,” but one would assume it wouldn’t be a dirty one.

WATCH LIVE: Game 2 of Islanders – Lightning, Penguins – Capitals

Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) starts to celebrate his goal against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) and Kris Letang (58) during the second period of Game 1 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday, April 28, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Can Sidney Crosby and the Penguins even things up against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals? Will the Lightning avoid dropping both games at home against the Islanders? We’ll find out on NBC.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media(reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win

With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2

Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43) takes control of the puck in front of St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 3-0. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Patrick Eaves won’t be able to play for the Dallas Stars against the St. Louis Blues in their upcoming Game 2.

The last time we saw Eaves, he was leaving the ice by gliding on one foot after being hit by a teammate’s shot. He needed help to the locker room and was seen on crutches according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.

The bad news is that Eaves cannot go. The good news is that the Stars can replace him with a player who boasts considerable offensive skill, as Valeri Nichushkin will take Eaves’ place.

Nichushkin wasn’t very effective in five postseason games so far, failing to score a point and only managed three shots on goal.

Still, if the frenetic pace of Game 1 carries on through this series, Nichushkin could very well make an impact.

Update: the Stars have other options at forward after making recalls:

Sheary’s in for Penguins in Game 2; Kunitz is a game-time decision

Pittsburgh Penguins' Conor Sheary (43) is greeted by teammates Brian Dumoulin (8) and Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring his first NHL goal, in the first period of the Penguins' hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Pittsburgh. Bruins' Brad Marchand is at lower right. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might look a little different in Game 2 on Saturday after that blistering Game 1.

As the team down 1-0, it’s not too surprising that the Penguins boast the more significant lineup questions, although they lean toward health concerns rather than performance tweaks.

Conor Sheary was able to return during Game 1 after Tom Wilson‘s controversial knee-to-knee hit, and he appears to be in for tonight’s contest as well. Chris Kunitz isn’t quite a guarantee, as he’s currently labeled a game-time decision.

For what it’s worth, Kunitz himself believes he’ll be in. Whether he plays on Saturday or not, it sounds like Kunitz is taking extra safety measures going forward.

The Penguins stayed vague with Marc-Andre Fleury, merely claiming that he’s making “progress.”

Generally speaking, Matt Murray has been playing well for the Penguins. Of course, the scrutiny will rise if Pittsburgh loses Game 2 on Saturday.

The Capitals are also considering a tweak. CSN Mid-Atlantic reports that Barry Trotz is pondering replacing Dmitry Orlov with Taylor Chorney.

“They told me to be prepared as if I’m going to be playing,” Chorney said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

As you may notice, Chorney isn’t the only one in wait-and-see mode heading into Game 2, which you can watch on NBC.