Tim Thomas, Dennis Seidenberg

Can Dennis Seidenberg generate a strong encore after his outstanding playoff run?


Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg has been an underrated asset for quite some time now. The German-born defenseman produced three consecutive 30+ point seasons while playing an efficient puck-moving style. (He also absorbed enough punishment from receiving hits and blocking shots to earn the nickname “The Pain Sponge” in 2009-10.)

After being quietly impressive for years, Seidenberg drew some dark horse consideration for the Conn Smythe as he worked some shutdown magic alongside Zdeno Chara on the Bruins’ top defensive pairing in the 2011 playoffs. After averaging between 22:20 and 23:33 minutes per game in the last three seasons, Seidenberg’s workload ballooned to a 27:38 minute average in the last postseason. He responded by playing some of the best hockey of his career, as Seidenberg continued his efficient ways while adding extra doses of poise and physicality to his game.

Obviously, it didn’t hurt his cause to pair up with an all-world defenseman like Chara, but CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty wonders if Seidenberg can back up his breakthrough playoffs. Seidenberg admits that even he’s surprised to watch how well he played for Boston during NHL Network’s replays of the postseason games.

“When I saw those games on NHL Network all the time and I’d turn and just watch for a second. It seemed like everything was so simple and nothing seemed to faze me, or us,” said Seidenberg. “You think that you can do that anytime you want, but when you get on the ice you don’t always have that calmness and composure with the puck.

“It’s tough to get back when you’ve been off the ice for a couple of months.”

Seidenberg should be a useful blueliner for the B’s whether he plays alongside Chara or not, although his numbers would probably dip if he finds himself with one of the team’s other defensemen.

“It was definitely on my mind over the summer, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter whether I’m paired with him or not,” said Seidenberg. “I have to play my game and focus on my tasks. I just have to focus on my game and keep trying to get better.”

Did Seidenberg get a little spoiled skating with Chara during the playoffs after the two were separated for the entirety of the regular season?

“Every time you’re on the ice with him you get spoiled,” said Seidenberg. “I learned so much from him. It’s a lot of fun being paired with [Chara].”

There was a considerable drop-off from Chara/Seidenberg to the rest of Boston’s pairings, so it might make sense to split them up – at least during the regular season. That would allow the team to have better balance overall and Haggerty points out that the two weren’t paired with each other very often during the 10-11 regular season.

Either way, it might be tough for Seidenberg to match his efforts from the 2011 playoffs, but the Bruins should be happy if he maintains his versatile and often selfless style of play in 2011-12.

Replacing Beauchemin with Bieksa hasn’t worked out so great for Anaheim

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Are the Anaheim Ducks missing Francois Beauchemin more than they thought they might?

It’s a question we’ve been hearing more and more lately, as the Ducks’ goal-scoring woes of October have been replaced by defensive issues in November.

Anaheim is 3-4-2 in its last nine games. The Ducks have allowed 27 goals in regulation during that stretch — that’s three per game on average — plus two more in a pair of overtime losses.

In a related story, per the O.C. Register, here’s what coach Bruce Boudreau said the other day about offseason acquisition Kevin Bieksa:

“He’s a veteran guy that has to fight his way out of this. We count on him to not make mistakes. We will go as far as guys like him take us.”

Bieksa, 34, is minus-7 in his last four games combined. True, he’s forced to play a lot of hard minutes against good players. But then, that’s exactly what he was brought in to do. The Ducks even gave him a two-year, $8 million extension, locking him up through 2017-18.

Now consider what Boudreau said during last year’s playoff run, about the guy Bieksa was brought in to replace:

“He’s the voice. Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there.”

And Beauchemin was more than just a talker. He led the Ducks in ice time. He had nine assists in 16 playoff games. Bottom line: he was a big part of a team that fell one win shy of making the Stanley Cup Final.

Beauchemin, of course, signed a three-year deal with Colorado on July 1, for a cap hit of $4.5 million. So far, he’s been as advertised for the Avs. The 35-year-old has two goals and 10 assists. He gets the most ice time on the team, an average of 23:33.

Looking back, Anaheim GM Bob Murray never did want to lose Beauchemin. The Ducks just weren’t prepared to offer what the Avs did.

“Beauch’ has been a pretty good warrior for us,” Murray said in June. “He has a one-time chance for free agency and maybe somebody will give him $5 million.… I couldn’t do that.”

One has to wonder now if Murray wishes he’d found a way.

The Ducks host the Blackhawks tonight on NBCSN.

Devils sign veteran Kennedy to one-year, $600K deal

Tyler Kennedy, Lee Stempniak
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A second forward has converted a PTO with New Jersey into a shiny new contract.

Tyler Kennedy, who’s on his second professional tryout with the club, has agreed to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level, the Devils announced on Friday.

Kennedy, 29, first caught on with the Devils in the preseason, only to be released in early October. He then rejoined the club on a second PTO in mid-November, and earned himself a deal from GM Ray Shero (previously, the two were together in the Pittsburgh organization).

A former 20-goal scorer with the Pens, Kennedy fell on hard times last year. It began in San Jose — where he never fit in Todd McLellan’s plans — and ended on Long Island, where he sat for over half of the Isles’ opening-round playoff loss to the Caps.

As for where he’ll fit in the Devils lineup?

Kennedy said he’s ready to play tonight — the Devils take on Montreal — and it’s possible Stefan Matteau could be scratched, allowing Kennedy to stpe into a bottom-six forward role.

As for how the Devils will free a roster spot — Jiri Tlusty remains on IR with a shoulder issue, while David Schlemko could be away from the club for a bit, as his wife is due to give birth.

Rangers park Boyle, Stalberg in press box for Thanksgiving Showdown

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Seven
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I’m not going to make the “it really is Black Friday for Dan Boyle and Viktor Stalberg” joke, but had to recognize it as a semi-viable lede.

So that’s out of the way.

Now, onto the business at hand — per the New York Daily News, Boyle and Stalberg will be scratched today when the Rangers take on the Bruins in the annual Thanksgiving Showdown (1 p.m. ET, NBC). Dylan McIlrath will draw in on defense for Boyle, while Emerson Etem will take Stalberg’s spot up front.

It’s not really surprising Alain Vigneault made some lineup changes.

The Blueshirts’ last outing was arguably their worst of the season — a 5-1 home loss to the Canadiens, a game in which Boyle finished minus-2 and Stalberg played the least among all Rangers skaters, with just 11:20 TOI.

More: Dan Boyle isn’t thrilled with all these healthy scratches

What’s more, McIlrath hasn’t played in nearly two weeks (Nov. 15, versus Toronto). It’s been even longer for Etem — he’s been out of the lineup since a win over the Blues on Nov. 12.

Related: Just a friendly reminder about Friday’s Bruins-Rangers Thanksgiving Showdown, on NBC

Goal-starved Flyers recall AHL Phantoms leading scorer Cousins

Nazem Kadri

Desperate for offense, Philly made a fairly noteworthy move on Friday — Nick Cousins has been brought up from the minors.

Cousins, 22, has been a solid scorer at the AHL level in each of the last two seasons. He led Lehigh Valley with 56 points in 64 games in ’14-15 and, this year, has 18 through 15 — putting him in a tie for seventh in league scoring.

The former OHL Sault Ste. Marie standout does have some NHL experience, having played 11 games for the Flyers last season. He averaged just under nine minutes per game over that span, and failed to register a point.

Looking ahead, Cousins could make his season debut today, when Philly hosts the Preds. Right now it’s unclear where he’d fit in the lineup.

To make room for Cousins on the roster, the Flyers sent Taylor Leier down to the Phantoms.