Is Filip Kuba the answer for help on defense for the Islanders?

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Making a trade that works out to be a marriage of convenience happens every now and again in the NHL. We saw one agreed to today between Calgary and Phoenix, and while it’s rare when it does happen, things can work out that way sometimes.

Could we see a pair of Eastern Conference teams work out an agreement that helps each other out in the best of ways before the season starts? If idle speculation and making sense out of current situations occurs, we could.

The New York Islanders are believed to be in the hunt for an experienced defenseman to solidify their blue line corps. Islanders Point Blank’s Chris Botta says the team is snooping around to see what they can find but are having a tough time finding solid options at the moment. With guys like Mark Streit, Mike Mottau, and Mark Eaton all coming back from injury and guys like Milan Jurcina, Andrew MacDonald, Ty Wishart, and Travis Hamonic battling for the other three spots on defense there’s more question marks than there are answers and getting a veteran presence would go a long way for New York.

The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren opines that the Senators can offer up someone perfect for the taking in Filip Kuba because GM Bryan Murray may have some tough moves to make during training camp thanks to a couple of youngsters making themselves known in David Rundblad and Jared Cowen.

Murray would likely jump at the opportunity to unload Kuba, who has one year and $3.7 million remaining on his contract.

Kuba was plagued by injuries and uninspired play last season.

Even if the Islanders believed he might rebound, he would be an expensive gamble for any team. There are also a few veteran defencemen who remain unrestricted free agents, including Bryan McCabe and ex-Islander Chris Campoli, but Long Island is a Long Lost destination in the minds of many players.

Well that’s a bit of a dire take for the Islanders especially given that they’re likely going to be a tougher team to deal with thanks to the host of their younger talent getting more adept at handling the NHL game. Besides, it’s not as if the Senators are shaping up to be monsters themselves. Their defensive unit could use the new blood that Rundblad or Cowen can provide given how poorly Sergei Gonchar played last year.

Gonchar along with steady veteran Chris Phillips, exciting offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson provide a decent top three of their own but elsewhere? Dicey. Matt Carkner is physical but not solid positionally and Brian Lee is as big a bust of a first round pick as there has been in the last ten years. Kuba is a decent player in that mix, but flawed… Just like the rest of the bunch.

If nothing else, seeing Garth Snow deal for Kuba would be a surprise. Kuba’s price tag is high, he’s an older player (turns 35 in December), and while he could help out with his big shot on the point, he’s an injury worry after missing 47 games the last two seasons in Ottawa. The last thing the Isles would need is to bring in a guy with injury problems after letting previous injury-prone guys like Radek Martinek walk in free agency.

Making such a move goes against what we’ve seen out of Snow in the past and for the kind of youth building he’s doing in New York, giving a shot to guys like MacDonald to improve and to see what Wishart and Hamonic actually have as well as taking a long look at Calvin de Haan in training camp makes a lot more sense. After all, if the answers aren’t there right away in camp, Snow would be better off waiting to see who hits the waiver wire first before swinging a deal for a high-priced guy like Kuba.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.