Last I checked, it seemed as if Eric Belanger was primed to return to the Washington Capitals, which was a logical choice since the team is a bit light on suitable centers. Those rumors have now been proven false, though, as sources including Renaud Lavoie indicate that Belanger signed a one-year, $750K deal with the Phoenix Coyotes today.
Here is more from the Coyotes’ team Web site, including a quote from GM Don Maloney.
Last season, the 6-foot-0, 189-pound Belanger played 77 games with Minnesota and Washington, recording a career high 41 points (15-26-41) and 32 penalty minutes. Belanger started the season with the Wild but was acquired by the Capitals on March 3, 2010.
“We are excited to have Eric join us here in Phoenix,” said Maloney. “He is a smart, quick, talented center who plays well on both sides of the puck. We had identified Eric early in the free agency period as someone who would be a great fit with us and feel fortunate we are able to bring him to the Coyotes organization.”
Belanger has scored 13 or more goals and registered 33 or more points in seven of his nine seasons in the NHL. He scored a career-high 17 goals with Los Angeles during the 2005-06 campaign and with Carolina and Atlanta in 2006-07.
Belanger won’t light the world on fire, but he has a nice mixture of skills, grit and savvy. He can play solid defense while chipping in a decent amount of offense, making him a quality pickup for a Coyotes team that made some positive moves this off-season.
I’m starting to come around to the mix of forwards in Phoenix, even if the team will still need to grind out wins next season. Belanger joins another veteran addition in Ray Whitney, along with returning forwards Lee Stempniak and Wojtek Wolski in addition to holdovers such as Shane Doan, Vernon Fiddler and Radim Vrbata. Again, this isn’t a group that will overwhelm you with talent, but I think Maloney is doing a solid job considering the financial constraints he must be working under.
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:
It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.
Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:
Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).
If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.
You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.
The pain goes beyond that … literally so.
For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.
(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)
The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.
Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.
It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.
The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).
The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.
One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.