Author: Jason Brough

Pekka Rinne
AP

Laviolette doesn’t blame Rinne, whose save percentage took another hit last night

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Predators coach Peter Laviolette didn’t blame his goalie, Pekka Rinne, for last night’s 6-3 loss to Philadelphia.

Instead, Laviolette blamed the players in front of Rinne.

“It’s difficult to fault him,” Laviolette told The Tennessean. “There was the first goal that was a breakaway. Our defensemen got picked at the blue line. Another one was a breakaway. It came off of (Shea Weber‘s) broken stick and a busted play. … Those were about the only two plays where we didn’t really make a bad defensive mistake.”

Still, the individual stat line was ugly. Rinne allowed six goals on just 19 shots. His save percentage now sits at .903.

How concerning is that?

Well, there are 26 NHL goalies who’ve had at least 25 starts, and nobody’s save percentage is lower than Rinne’s .903.

So, pretty concerning.

Whether it’s Rinne’s fault, or it’s the players in front of him, or it’s a combination of the two, it’s all a far cry from last season when Rinne was among the league leaders in save percentage, and a Vezina Trophy finalist to boot.

After winning four straight on the road in Western Canada, the Preds have dropped two in a row at home. They’re only one point up on Minnesota for the final playoff spot in the West.

And, oh by the way, here’s what they’ve got coming up:

preds

Report: Canucks expected to waive Yannick Weber

at Staples Center on December 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
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Yannick Weber led all Vancouver blue-liners with 11 goals last season. According to his coach, he “made a big difference how he stepped up.”

Today, Weber will reportedly be placed on waivers, as the Canucks need to free up a roster spot before Dan Hamhuis returns to the lineup Saturday.

A pending unrestricted free agent, Weber has not enjoyed the same level of success this season. He has no goals and just five assists in 35 games. He has not been particularly good defensively either. And with the emergence of Alex Biega, he has not played a game since Jan. 14.

At the same time, with a cap hit of just $1.5 million, it would not be a huge surprise to see a team make a claim for the 27-year-old.

Jack Riley, US hockey coach at 1960 Olympics, dies at 95

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WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) Jack Riley, the Army hockey coach who in 1960 guided the U.S. to its first Olympic gold medal in hockey, has died. He was 95.

He died Wednesday on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the U.S. Military Academy said. He regularly attended Army home games into his early 90s.

“He lived a great life, and although he is known as a hockey coach to many people, he was a great husband, father, grandfather and friend to all,” said son Brian Riley, the current Army hockey coach.

Jack Riley compiled a 542-343-20 record at West Point during a 36-year college coaching career that started in 1950, transforming the Black Knights into an Eastern power. He led the Black Knights to 29 winning seasons, including a school-record 28 victories during the 1983-84 season.

He was the NCAA coach of the year in 1957 and 1960. When he retired in 1986, Riley was second in NCAA victories and currently ranks 18th.

“He did have a little bit of an Irish temper at the rink and on the golf course,” Brian Riley said. “He was a fierce competitor. He did not like to lose, but at home he was a softie.”

In 1986 and 2002, Jack Riley won the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to U.S. hockey. He was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979 was inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. He was a member of the Army Sports Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2004.

Riley was born in the Boston area and played hockey at Dartmouth. He was a member of the 1948 U.S. Olympic team. Twelve years later, he coached the U.S. team to the gold medal, with the Americans upsetting the Soviet Union at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games in California.

“He pushed his guys,” Brian said. “For the 1960 Olympics he brought his team back to West Point to train. He knew on paper they probably weren’t the favorites, but he was going to have the best-conditioned team and kind of skated the guys into the ice to make sure they were going to be in great shape. Obviously, they were.”

The West Point men’s hockey team has been coached by a member of the Riley family since Jack took the job in 1950. His son Rob succeeded him for 18 seasons and Brian became coach in 2004-05.

Jack Riley said of all his accomplishments he was perhaps proudest of being a Navy pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II.

“People always talk about my dad and the Olympics, but if you wanted to see a real gleam in my father’s eyes, let him talk to you about serving in the Navy and being a Navy pilot,” Brian said. “He took immense pride in serving his country.”

Wideman apologizes to Henderson, but claims ‘no intent at any time to hit the official or hurt him’

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First Dennis Wideman apologized to linesman Don Henderson.

“I feel awful about what happened,” the Flames defenseman said Thursday, the day after he was suspended 20 games by the NHL for hitting Henderson from behind during a Calgary-Nashville game on Jan. 27.

“I feel really bad about the whole situation. The last seven days have been tough. Never in my career have I ever disrespected, or done anything like this, to an official.”

With that said, Wideman then turned his attention to the suspension, which the NHLPA will appeal on his behalf.

“I’m really disappointed with the decision and the length of the suspension,” he said. “I did not have any intent at any time to hit the official or hurt him or anything like that. I would never do something like that.”

Wideman did not take questions, telling reporters that he couldn’t comment any further due to the decision being under appeal.

“When the time’s right and the time comes then I can take your questions and answer them,” he said.

Suffice to say, it all remains a bit of a mystery.

The NHLPA offered a clue to Wideman’s defense yesterday. In a statement, the players’ union cited the “medical evidence” that was presented at his hearing which purportedly showed “Dennis had no intention to make contact with the linesman.”

The NHLPA did not specify what “medical evidence” was presented; however, the NHL acknowledged in its explanation of the suspension that Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion following the Jan. 27 game.

“It is accepted for the purposes of this decision that he was later diagnosed as having suffered a concussion,” the NHL said. “However, that fact even accepted as true, cannot excuse Wideman’s subsequent actions.”

The Flames, for their part, also released a statement yesterday saying they disagreed with the suspension, though there was no mention of any concussion or “medical evidence.”

Today, Flames head coach Bob Hartley said that Wideman has since passed concussion protocol and will be practicing throughout his suspension.

With Orpik still out, will Caps try to add defensive depth?

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First off, Capitals defenseman Taylor Chorney is feeling better and should be able to go tonight versus the Islanders.

“It was kind of like a quick bug but I was able to get some food and some fluids in me yesterday and I feel a lot better today,” Chorney told NHL.com.

The Caps had recalled d-man Aaron Ness from AHL Hershey just in case Chorney had to sit, but at this morning’s skate, Ness was on a “fourth” pairing with injured d-man Brooks Orpik, who hasn’t played since November.

It remains to be seen when Orpik will be able to return, and also how effective he’ll be when he does.

“Obviously, I haven’t played a game in a while, so I have to get some good practices in,” Orpik told reporters recently. “I couldn’t do much conditioning, lower body-wise, so that’ll take a little bit to come. … Hopefully, I’m ahead of the curve a little bit, but obviously, it’s still going to take a little bit to get things back going where they should be.”

And on that note, with the Caps primed to make a deep playoff run, it’ll be interesting to see if they attempt to add some defensive depth prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

For what it’s worth, Caps head coach Barry Trotz is familiar with Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis from their time together in Nashville. If not Hamhuis, Carolina’s John-Michael Liles is another pending UFA who could be moved, as is Toronto’s Roman Polak.

Related: Hamhuis, a potential trade target, expected to return Saturday