Ryan Lambert

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  • Why the LA Kings go on wild swings (Trending Topics)

    After a brief scare thanks to a super-hot run by the rival Anaheim Ducks, the Los Angeles Kings are back on top of the Pacific Division, and looking quite comfortable once again.

    This, too, is a team accustomed to going on runs. This year they've had winning streaks of seven, six, and five games, but also gone through stretches where they lost four of five, five of seven, and five of nine. In short, it's a team that can quickly go from looking unbeatable to looking awful, and it's not often that they spend much time in between.

    Since Feb. 20, a little more than a week before the trade deadline, the Kings are 9-2-1, which is obviously fantastic and the reason they're back atop the division. During that time, they have the third-best possession numbers in the league (54.7 percent percent, actually a little down from their season average) and have gotten world-class goaltending from Jonathan Quick (a ludicrous .958 at 5-on-5). 

    And that, you'd have to say, is why the Kings are having so

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  • After firing Mike Eaves, what’s next for Wisconsin hockey?

    It was hard not to see this one coming. 

    Mike Eaves may have compiled a record of 267-225-66 over his 14 years behind the bench at Wisconsin, his alma mater, but 45 of those losses have come in the last two years. In the last two seasons, his Badgers won just 12 out of 70 games.

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    This season was long seen as something of a “prove-it” year after a four-win campaign threatened his job. He doubled that number this season, but going 8-18-8 isn't going to cut it in Madison. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told Andy Baggot of UWBadgers.com:

    “After last season, because of the success we've had in the past, we felt that Mike had earned a chance to get the ship righted. But now, after back-to-back seasons like the last two we've had, I feel we need a change. Our fans and everyone expect more. With our facilities and what we have to sell, we feel we should be at a championship level.”

    The decision came down a little more than 12 hours

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  • Huge if True: We're already discussing the Milan Lucic sweepstakes

    [HUGE IF TRUE breaks down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]

    The Rumor

    When the Los Angeles Kings traded for Milan Lucic last summer, there was already an expectation that it might be little more than a season-long rental.

    The Kings are no strangers to being tight against the cap, and could in fact, exceed the cap by the end of this season if the numbers at General Fanager hold up. Right now, they could be looking at an overage in the $700,000 range.

    The idea here is that Lucic only fits on the Kings' roster right now because Boston retained half his salary, and with him about to hit UFA status for the first time in his career, he's likely to want to cash in big, and on a long-term deal.

    The problem: The Kings already have about $62.7 million committed to 17 players for next season — when or if Vinny Lecavalier retires (and how funny would it be if he didn't) — and you have to think Lucic wants something north of $7 million. That's just me speculating, but given the season

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  • Crying about draft lottery, NHL goalie gear (Puck Daddy Countdown)

    (Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

    6. The expansion draft

    Last time we had one of these things, the proliferation of no-movement and no-trade clauses really hadn't caught on around the league. Now, it's a major issue.

    And that's something the league is trying to address now, for whenever they do actually expand and need to get a bunch of mediocre-to-bad players onto an expansion team. Former Canucks front-office guy Laurence Gillman is now working up a plan that would allow for the league to actually take the step to have an expansion draft, including drafting the new rules surrounding it. The current CBA is very, very different from the one seen 16 years ago, and while a lot of people are going to have a say in the matter, the issue of players having no-move clauses is one I'd expect to be a major hurdle.

    As far as I'm concerned, “no-move” should

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  • NCAA Hockey 101: Omaha's monumental collapse

    It's not usually a big deal when a team that rarely makes the NCAA tournament happens to slide in one year and then fails to do so again in the next. In a nation with a number of national powers who can reliably count on making the tournament, there really aren't that many at-large bids open to most of the other 50 or so teams. 

    Between the auto-bids for the WCHA and Atlantic Hockey, the nine or so teams from power conferences who make the tournament like clockwork, and emerging powers, you have maybe two or three chances to really squeeze yourself into the national tournament. So again, a one-and-done generally shouldn't raise too many eyebrows.

    But when the most notable crash-out from a year ago previously went to the Frozen Four, and looked like a lock to make the tournament again as recently as early February, that's quite concerning indeed.

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    The University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks entered the month of February with the 14th-best

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  • What We Learned: Vezina Trophy race is wide open now

    (Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)

    Just a few months ago, it seemed like Braden Holtby would inevitably win the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender.

    There was, of course, a conversation to be had that perhaps a guy like Ben Bishop or Petr Mrazek deserved to be in the conversation, but a lot of that has dropped off as the wins continued to pile up for Holtby. As of Monday, Holtby leads the league with 41, and should become the first goaltender to win 50 in the history of the league. He could, in fact, obliterate the record of 48 held by Martin Brodeur.

    Not that you should judge goaltender quality on wins and losses, of course. You can be a very good goalie with a very bad record if the team in front of you stinks; Cory Schneider lost 31 games last year despite a .925 save

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  • Do NY Islanders have cause for concern? (Trending Topics)

    For a team fighting for playoff position, losing a starting goaltender for the final month of the season and beyond is often a death sentence.

    So for the New York Islanders to lose Jaroslav Halak for six to eight weeks might seem to be a death sentence. And for any other team, it might be. The Isles ended Wednesday night two points back of the New York Rangers (with two games in hand) but comfortably up six on Pittsburgh. Basically, they're playing the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs unless Pittsburgh gets unbelievably hot and they simultaneously drop off a cliff. The question is how they get there.

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    The loss of Halak obviously opens up the door for the starters' role to be given over to kinda-sorta backup Thomas Greiss, who has started nine fewer games but has a save percentage of .929 versus Halak's .919. Further, Greiss has only lost six games in regulation, largely because the Islanders have scored more goals per game in

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  • Huge If True: NCAA free agents now available

    [HUGE IF TRUE breaks down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]

    The Rumor

    Every year around this time, as various teams' NCAA seasons come to an end, we start to see a rush of players signing with AHL and NHL teams on a regular basis. Of course, a good number of them are free agents, capable of signing with any team they like, and this is often a tantalizing deal for NHL teams.

    Basically, they get to stock their prospect pools (and even NHL teams on occasion) with young-ish players who have experience playing against competition as old as 25 or 26 years old, for little more than a signing bonus and a relatively small entry-level deal.

    To wit, on Tuesday a pair of free agent transactions were announced, with UNH's Andrew Poturalski signing with the Carolina Hurricanes (a franchise always eager to dip into the NCAA free agent pool) and the New Jersey Devils (another) picking up Brown's Nick Lappin.

    Both were quality players by any measure, and Poturalski is arguably a Hobey

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  • Puck Daddy Countdown: Raising draft age, expansion, Yzerman vs. Drouin

    (Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

    8. Raising the draft age

    There's a story going around that the NHL might raise the draft age to 19.

    Pat LaFontaine, working these days for the league in the development realm, says this would be helpful to “improve conditions for player development” but what it would actually be is a good way for teams to reduce the risk of drafting a player who doesn't work out. An extra year of being not-drafted-yet is an extra year of evaluation so teams end up with fewer busts. Oh and also it gives drafting teams more cost control during a player's prime scoring years.

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    And hell, since the draft is already (arguably) anti-competitive in terms of dictating how much a rookie can make and where he can actually ply his trade, raising the age at which a legal adult can earn money in

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  • NCAA Hockey 101: Big Ten tighter than it should be

    As we head into the final weekend of regular-season play in the Big Ten, just about anything could happen.

    Minnesota is up four points on Michigan atop the conference, and it's possible that the Wolverines could pull ahead. The Gophers host lowly Wisconsin for a pair, while Michigan hosts Penn State, so it's not particularly likely, but it's possible. Moreover, it's a lot more possible that Penn State passes Michigan — losers of a bizarre sweep at the hands of Ohio State this past weekend — if their head-to-head series goes as the Nittany Lions would like. If they sweep in regulation, they would pull within a point of Minnesota.

    And even below the top-three in the conference, there is intrigue. Given what the Buckeyes just did to Michigan (albeit home-and-home in a huge rivalry series) would anyone particularly want to face them in the first round of the Big Ten tournament? Or what about Michigan State, which pummeled the Gophers on Saturday, 5-0, to pick up a road split? Even

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