James O'Brien

Crosby admits it’s a ‘little weird’ for Pens to fight for ‘playoff life’


As they ready for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in a fairly unfamiliar position: on the outside of the playoff picture.

Granted, they’re not that far outside of the East’s top eight, but it’s a far cry from the sort of work one usually expects from the Penguins.

It seems like it’s leaving Sidney Crosby with a fish-out-of-water feeling, as NHL.com reports.

“It’s maybe a little weird to think that, at the halfway point, you’re fighting for your playoff life,” Crosby said. “But that’s the situation for a lot of teams. Finding that desperation and understanding is important, and hopefully something that’s going to help us here.”

On the bright side, the Penguins have been looking much better lately. They’re 5-2-2 in their last seven games and seem to be showing an offensive burst they often lacked under Mike Johnston.

That seems especially true for Crosby, who looks more and more like … well, Sidney Crosby.

Overall, this isn’t exactly a hopeless situation for the Penguins, yet it’s probably an unusual feeling to face so much uncertainty.

Maybe it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise in the long run?

Canucks end Panthers’ winning streak at 12 games


Well, it had to end sometime. Sadly, it ended a little ugly, too.

The Vancouver Canucks beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime on Monday, ending the Panthers’ franchise-record winning streak at 12 games.

Jake Virtanen proved to be something of a hero not that long after being scapegoated in the Vancouver area, as Virtanen tied it up late in the third period. The Sedin twins then teamed up for the overtime clincher on a 4-on-3 power play after Jaromir Jagr took a costly OT penalty.

Florida’s been fantastic at protecting leads lately, but it didn’t work out this time.

On a night when Canucks fans cheered “Lu” after a big save, the feelings weren’t always warm and fuzzy, especially as the two teams squabbled after the overtime-winner went in. From the look of things, Daniel Sedin (or Henrik?) jawed at the Panthers bench, and some chaos ensued.

(Update: See the scrum in the video above the headline.)

It’s not all bad for the Panthers, mind you, as they still grabbed a standings point by getting to overtime. Still, it probably stings that their ride to remember is over.

… Unless this ends up just being a chapter in a bigger story?

NHL suspends Matt Hendricks three games for boarding Aaron Ekblad


Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad missed Monday’s game, and perhaps that factored into the supplemental discipline handed out to Edmonton Oilers grinder Matt Hendricks.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety decided to hand Hendricks a three-game suspension for the check.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Hendricks will forfeit $29,838.72. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

You can see the full explanation in the video above, but long story short, the big three points were that it was a boarding hit, it caused an injury and Hendricks has no suspension history despite a pretty lengthy career as a gritty forward.

Judging by his earlier reaction, Hendricks probably does not agree with the decision. Where do you weigh in?

Stupendous saves from Lundqvist, Luongo (Video)

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo stops a shot during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

You know you’ve made a good save when you’re on the road and the home fans are cheering for you.

OK, in this case, there’s some cheating involved; Vancouver Canucks fans might feel a touch nostalgic in throwing out a “Lu” chant for Roberto Luongo, now with the Florida Panthers.

Who wouldn’t give Luongo a nod for the stop he made early in Monday’s game, though?

The tougher question is: who currently holds the gold belt for the save of the night, Luongo … or Henrik Lundqvist?

One thing we know for sure: the Rangers won their game already, as Lundqvist & Co. came back for a 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins.

So far, Luongo and the Panthers are in good shape against the Canucks, but they still have a way to go.

Report: Travis Hamonic likely to miss 2-3 weeks

Travis Hamonic, Tyson Strachan

Tough news for the New York Islanders tonight: key defenseman Travis Hamonic could miss two-to-three weeks, according to New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

Hamonic is dealing with a lower-body injury, which became public knowledge on Saturday.

It could be a bumpy ride to the All-Star break in general for the Islanders, as they may be without Hamonic and Johnny Boychuk for an extended period of time.

Head coach Jack Capuano was talking about depth moves when he called for roster tweaks after a frustrating loss, but does this signal a greater need for a more dramatic tweak?

If they mostly stand pat, this could be a challenging stretch for the Isles. They begin a three-game homestand when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.