Sidney Crosby

Sochi notes: Is an extra game such a bad thing?


SOCHI, Russia — You may recall Team Canada didn’t exactly come flying out of the gates in 2010 either. A mere shootout win over Switzerland and a loss to the United States in the preliminary round meant the Olympic hosts would have to play Germany in the qualification playoffs, instead of advancing directly to the quarterfinals. You know how it ended — Roberto Luongo replaced Martin Brodeur and Canada won four straight, including the gold-medal game.

Sure, it would be nice to get the rest. Yes, there’s always the risk of injury. And of course there’s always the possibility you could, you know, lose. But there’s something to be said for the additional time a qualification game provides to come together as a team.

“Now we suddenly have some video on our own guys,” coach Mike Babcock said Thursday after Canada’s 3-1 victory over Norway. “We can talk about our team game.

“Once you trust each other and you trust your structure, your skill comes out because you’re in the right spots and playing fast. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. Don’t get me wrong. But we can be way better. We understand that, and we’re confident that we’re going to be.”

Canada. Russia. United States. Sweden. Finland. Czech Republic. At least two of those sides will have to play in the qualification playoffs. If it happens to your side, try not to fret; it’s not necessarily the worst thing, and may in fact be a good thing.

—- Per the Olympic News Service, this was Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov after his team’s 5-2 win over Slovenia: “We passed too much today, we needed to shoot much more. The fancy passing is nice to watch, but shooting brings results.”

Babcock could’ve said the same thing after Canada’s 3-1 win over Norway. (Jonathan Toews did.)

I think we’ll see a more basic approach from the Canadians tonight versus Austria, and Sidney Crosby is one player to watch in this regard. For all the fancy passes he completed last night, the results weren’t there.

—- Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press sums up the Red Wings’ concerns following Henrik Zetterberg’s withdrawal from the Olympics with a back issue: “The Wings can ill afford to be without Zetterberg, their captain and best all-around player. They are coming out of the Olympic break, in less than two weeks, clinging to the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Pavel Datsyuk is also hurting, playing on an inflamed knee, but [general manager Ken Holland] said he has heard nothing new on Datsyuk.”

And remember that Johan Franzen (concussion) is out until further notice as well.

The focus is on the Olympics now, but the Wings’ injuries mean opportunity for Columbus, Ottawa, Washington, Carolina and New Jersey when the NHL gets back to business.

—- Here was commissioner Gary Bettman, almost two decades ago, before NHLers were set to make their Olympic debut in Nagano: ”We’re going to get exposure like the world has never seen for hockey. This is about 120-plus of the world’s elite hockey players playing for pride and playing for their countries. It will give us a tournament of high magnitude. It will be quite compelling.”

And here was deputy commissioner Bill Daly, earlier this week on an podcast, on the prospect of continued Olympic participation: “We’re in a different place now, 20 years later than we were 20 years ago. And that adds to the equation as well. Where is the National Hockey League today on the global landscape, on the North American landscape? Do we need the Olympics to help raise the visibility of hockey, and professional hockey, throughout the world? And I’m not sure the answer is yes.”

Keep that in mind.

Related: If NHLers want ongoing Olympic participation, they need to speak up

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)

Lightning lament life as a .500 team

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.

After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:

Record at the end of October: 5-5-2

Record at the end of November: 11-11-3

As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.

The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?

Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.

They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.

The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?

Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.

Dubinsky won’t change, and he won’t go easy on Crosby


Sometimes a suspension will shame a player, or at least inspire him to change the way he plays.

That apparently won’t happen regarding Brandon Dubinsky‘s one-game timeout session for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.

Dubinsky told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he won’t alter his style, whether it’s against Crosby or someone else.

“Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”

In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.

One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.

Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?

Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).

Bad news for Boedker: Coyotes won’t face Sens again in 2015-16


Sorry Mikkel Boedker, you won’t get to face the Ottawa Senators again this season.

OK, it could happen if the speedster is traded from the Arizona Coyotes. He could also face the Senators in the unlikely instance that the two teams fight it out in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Beyond those two possibilities, Saturday night was it, and Boedker must have been licking his chops much like an actual coyote.

For the second straight game, Boedker managed a hat trick against the Senators, helping Arizona beat Ottawa 4-3 last night. His third tally stood as the game-winner in a 4-3 victory.

You can watch all three goals in the video above.

It’s oddly fitting that Boedker has three goals this season … against teams not named the Ottawa Senators.