February was a big month for Chicago’s Jonathan Toews. He finished the month with six goals and 15 assists and helped lead the Blackhawks to a 8-3-2 record. That record helped bring the Hawks from out of the playoff discussion to fifth place in the Western Conference. That kind of effort gets noticed and today the NHL named him the number one star for February. The Blackhawks captain has picked up his play enough that people are starting to whisper his name in talks about the Hart Trophy. We’re still a ways off from that and Chicago’s hold on the playoffs is still tenuous with things being as tight as they are in the West, but Toews’ play is the glue holding it together.
Antti Niemi’s great February that saw him go 10-2-0 with a 1.89 goals against average and a .934 save percentage with three shutouts was more than good enough to earn him the second star of the month. With Niemi taking charge, the Sharks have stormed to the lead in the Pacific Division and third place in the Western Conference. His play was also inspiring enough to Sharks GM Doug Wilson to give him a four-year contract extension.
Johan Hedberg’s work to get the New Jersey Devils out of the basement and thinking about the playoffs during February didn’t go unnoticed either. With Martin Brodeur sidelined with an injury, Hedberg stepped in and provided seamless and steady work between the pipes. Hedberg went 7-1-1 with a 1.43 goals against average and a .943 save percentage with two shutouts in 10 games. That kind of action made Hedberg the NHL’s number three star of the month. The Devils resurgence in the second half can be pinned on Hedberg as much as it can new-old coach Jacques Lemiare. Without Hedberg’s steady play while Brodeur was out, the Devils are dead in the water. Instead they’re hanging on the fringes of the playoff discussion which is a lot better than where they were before.
Some good news/bad news for the Rangers.
Exactly one week after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the ice with his teammates this morning.
The Rangers captain was wearing a non-contract jersey, but “looked good” according to coach Alain Vigneault.
McDonagh was hurt after taking a punch to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above).
The 26-year-old has missed each of his team’s last three games since suffering the injury.
McDonagh hasn’t been cleared for contact, but that could happen in the next few days according to Vigneault.
The news wasn’t as good for forward Rick Nash, who’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his leg.
Nash has missed each of New York last eight game’s and Vigneault admitted that he’s no longer considered day-to-day.
He’ll miss at least another week.
What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.
It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.
Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.
He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).
That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.
Some Twitter reaction to the goal:
The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.
It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).
He’s considered day-to-day at this point.
Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.
“You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.
“From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”
After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd still doesn’t have a contract for next season and with the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, something’s gonna have to give.
According to TSN’s Gary Lawless, the Winnipeg Jets will make one last push to sign the forward before making him available on the trade market.
Ladd doesn’t want to leave and the team wants to keep him, but after Dustin Byfgulien got an extension earlier this month, there may not be enough money to go around.
At one point, the Jets reportedly made Ladd a six-year offer worth $6 million per year, which he obviously didn’t accept.
Can they top that? Time will tell.
Waiting to trade Ladd is probably the smartest decision.
Keeping the captain around would be great, but if the two sides can’t agree to a new contract, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Ladd’s services.
Lawless mentions the Penguins, Panthers and Blackhawks as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old.
The Kings have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ladd.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks.