Author: Joe Yerdon

Jiri Hudler

Sobotka injury may open door for Hudler on Czech roster


Vladimir Sobotka landed on injured reserve for the St. Louis Blues with a leg injury that will knock him out of the Olympics. That opens the door for another player to join the Czech Republic roster and it could be Calgary’s Jiri Hudler.

Olympic coach Alois Hadamczik told TV NOVA in the Czech Republic (via Roman Jedlicki) that Hudler may be the leading candidate to replace Sobotka on the Czech roster.

Yes, Capitals forward Martin Erat, he of zero goals in 47 games this season, could also get the call. As for the other players mentioned, here’s what their story is:

Tomas Rolinek — 33-year-old currently with Praha in the Czech league and was on the 2010 Olympic team.

Jan Kovar — 23-year-old forward currently with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL and has 66 points in 50 games.

Zbynek Irgl — 33-year-old forward with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL. He has 18 points in 46 games.

Interesting choices abound, but Hudler’s omission from the roster in the first place was a surprise. He would seem like the logical choice, but Rolinek could be the “safe” selection for the Czechs.

Report: Leafs’ latest run came after GM Nonis threatened changes

Dave Nonis, GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs speaks with the media during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.
(June 29, 2013 - Source: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America)

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won nine of the past 11 games (going 9-1-1 in that stretch) and are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They’ve been scoring goals in bunches, Phil Kessel is on fire, Nazem Kadri’s production has picked up, and Jonathan Bernier has been playing outstanding in goal.

But was it GM Dave Nonis who lit a fire under the team? According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, that might just be the case.

Johnston reports Nonis threatened major changes would happen (trades, firings, the works) if the team didn’t snap out of the three-game funk they’d fallen into after a 6-1 loss to Carolina on Jan. 9. Neither Nonis nor any players spoke about it on the record about the apparent meeting, but it was intimated that it did happen.

While the Leafs lost the next game against Washington, the Leafs have been on a torrid pace since then and have jumped the Montreal Canadiens in the standings and are threatening the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division.

Winning cures all ills, and that’s certainly the case in Toronto right now, but if it was a stern warning from Nonis that lit the fire, credit is shared all around for the Leafs’ latest run.

NHL on NBC: Capitals and Red Wings clash in Washington

Alex Ovechkin, Jimmy Howard

NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign this afternoon when the Washington Capitals host the Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center at 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

The Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals meet yet again, this time in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee in D.C.

These two teams just met in Detroit on Friday night in a wild affair that saw Joel Ward score the game-tying goal in the closing seconds. The game rolled on to the shootout where Jimmy Howard stole the show stopping all seven Capitals as Patrick Eaves eventually beat Michal Neuvirth in the seventh round to get the win.

As it was, Neuvirth made 42 saves to keep the Caps in the game in the first place, but both teams have bigger problems to worry about. Both the Caps and Wings are sitting on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Wings are one point back of Philadelphia for the final Wild Card spot while the Caps are three back.

Detroit has been making do without Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) since Jan. 7 and Johan Franzen with a concussion since Dec. 15. Franzen did attempt to return on Jan. 26 against Florida, but wound up out of the lineup again after suffering a setback.

Going without two players picked to their countries’ Olympic teams makes life hard on Detroit’s offense which has been miserable lately, especially on the road. Detroit has been shut out three straight games away from Joe Louis Arena and have never been shut out in four straight.

The Caps have problems of their own, of course. They’re winless in nine of the past 11 games and are without Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) and could be without Mike Green (upper body) and Brooks Laich (groin) as well.

It’s not all negative for the Caps, however. Alex Ovechkin is two goals shy of having his sixth 40-goal season. Joel Ward has a goal in each of the past two games and has 15 this season, good for second on the team. One thing to watch is how the Caps do on the power play. They’ve been quiet lately going 4-for-its-last-44 but they’ve been one of the better teams on the man-advantage this season.

If you’re wondering if the Red Wings road scoring problems could come into play in Washington, know this: The last time the Capitals shut out the Red Wings at home was Dec. 9, 1984 and the Capitals don’t have a shutout at home yet this season.

With all that said, both teams need a win desperately to get in better shape for a playoff run following the Olympic break. Desperation sometimes makes for a great game.