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    It's a Monday edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

    Special Guest Star: Louis Jean of TVA Sports joins us to talk about the Montreal Canadiens and the Eastern Conference race.

    • The return of the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin.

    • The Calder Trophy race.

    • The Winter Classic announcement, and its repercussions

    Question of the Day: - What one Red Wing and one Maple Leaf do you want to see in Winter Classic alumni game? Tweet or email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com.

    Tweet your answers with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski and @jeffmarek.

    Click here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above! Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or Feedburner.

    Read More »from Marek Vs. Wyshynski Radio: Future of Winter Classic; inside Canadiens; the rookie of year race
  • Getty Images“What’s wrong with Alex Ovechkin?”

    It’s a question that became a cottage industry: How could the most dominant goal scorer in recent memory and a perennial MVP candidate transform into such an ordinary player? How could the NHL’s most irresistible force of nature – the most electrifying player in the League since Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Bure redefined excitement for a generation – become so passionless?

    It was a question that sparked lengthy analysis pieces. Was it opposing defenses figuring him out? Was it Kirk Muller figuring him out? Was he too heavy? Was it, ahem, medicinal? Was he drunk? Was it his mother? Or was it a lost desire to compete because of the Capitals’ failures, Russia’s Olympic flop or because Sidney Crosby far surpassed him?

    Maybe it was the lack of scraggily caveman beard. Damn you, Gillette.

    "What's wrong with Ovechkin?" is also a question that hasn’t been asked once since St. Patrick’s Day, which was the point of departure for Ovechkin from his middling season. He’s now tied for the NHL lead in goals with 25. He has 21 points in his last 12 games, scoring in all but one of them. The Capitals are now back on top of the Southeast Division, even if it’s (shall we say) a manageable division.

    So perhaps it’s time the script was flipped on the years-old question about the Washington captain, even if temporarily.

    As he wins NHL player of the week honors again, we ask: What’s right with Alex Ovechkin?

    Read More »from What’s right with Alex Ovechkin?
  • Eric Wellwood of the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms is currently in hospital recovering from surgery after suffering a gruesome skate cut Sunday afternoon versus the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In the second period of the game, Wellwood fell into the boards, somehow slicing his lower right leg with his left skate.

    As of right now, there doesn't appear to be video of the incident. But, lest we fail to understand the gruesomeness of the injury because we didn't see it, Wellwood's teammate, Danny Syvret, tweeted a photo Sunday night of Wellwood's "Curt Schilling skate":

    Egad. Wellwood apparently cut an artery in his calf, which would explain the severe blood loss -- Wellwood left a trail of blood all the way to the locker-room door -- as well as the fact that it was a bright rather than dark red.

    Read More »from Eric Wellwood’s bloody skate is must-see hockey horror show (Photo)
  • Getty ImagesHello, 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.

    The long-standing joke in the NHL is that the Southeast Division is the worst in hockey by a mile. And while that hasn't always been categorically true, it's certainly been true enough over the years that, unlike the belief that Sidney Crosby is a diving whiner, it's not always easy to separate legend out from reality.

    This year, however, there have been no such difficulties. The race to the bottom in the Southeast has reached an unfortunate nadir in the past several days, as the Capitals now lead it with a point total which equals that of the New York Islanders. That point total is just good enough to get them into the playoffs even under rational circumstances — for example, not giving a division winner an automatic top-3 seed just for fun — but it's also tied for 14th league-wide.

    Were you to look up ignominy in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of Adam Oates sneaking into this prime playoff spot, while still scowling over yet another defensive breakdown by these 2013 division-leading Caps, who have conceded 110 goals in just 39 games.

    The Capitals, unlike the teams ahead of them and also immediately behind them in the standings, have the luxury of playing Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, and Winnipeg four and five times this season. Their record against those teams, including last night's result against the Lightning, is 12-3-0. That should tell you everything you need to know about how fraudulently this division title is going to be won by whichever team backs into it least-hard: The Caps' record against teams outside the Southeast is a brutal 8-14-2.

    It doesn't really seem fair that, simply on the basis of geography, a team that actually deserved to win home ice by racking up a large number of points against teams that wouldn't struggle against middle-of-the-pack AHL sides won't be able to do so. People talk an awful lot about how the Maple Leafs aren't even that good, and they're probably not wrong, but they have 46 points playing in the only division in hockey with two 50-point teams. This is far more of an accomplishment than leading the only one with three teams at 34 or below. And only doing it by six points.

    I'm sure there have been worse-performing divisions than this one throughout NHL history, but what I doubt is that they've been quite this brutal to watch. These are some defensively ugly teams, as evidenced by the fact that Carolina, Winnipeg and Florida are in the bottom six in the league in goal differential, ranging from minus-18 to minus-37, respectively. That seems like a pretty good reason all other teams in the East are a combined 74-40-11 against these five teams, good for a .636 winning percentage, or a pace for about 104 points in an 82-game season. Only one team in the East (Buffalo, of course, at 2-8-2) has taken fewer than half its points against Southeast opponents.

    The good news, if you want to call it that, is this type of postseason abomination, which cropped up to a lesser extent last year when the Florida Panthers sneaked in as the No. 3 seed when it should have been eighth, is in its dying days.

    Read More »from What We Learned: The Southeast Division is really terrible
  • AP

    No. 1 Star: Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues

    Hey, guess who’s back? Elliott pitched a 1-0 shutout against the Detroit Red Wings, making 28 saves and making a Chris Porter goal stand up. It’s his third straight win.

    No. 2 Star: Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

    The captain led the Blackhawks to a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, clinching a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Toews assisted on Brandon Saad’s ninth of the season to tie the game 3-3, and then scored his 19th of the season to give the Hawks the lead just 55 seconds later.

    Read More »from NHL Three Stars: Elliott back with shutout win; Blackhawks, Penguins clinch
  • Getty ImagesDETROIT – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman continues to insist that the league is not exploring the relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes and there are multiple parties that could buy the team. In fact, he said Sunday that action is hotter than ever before.

    “There seems to be more interest at this particular point in time than we’ve seen throughout the process,” Bettman said Sunday.

    Of course, this is the same commissioner who scorned speculation that the Atlanta Thrashers would relocate – right up until the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets. Of course, this is the same NHL that has owned the Coyotes, covered their losses and failed to sell them for years. And of course, just because the action is hotter than before doesn’t mean it will be hot enough for a deal.

    But give Bettman a few things: As a lawyer, he is precise with his language. He is difficult to pin down, and he is persistent.

    “We’re not planning on moving Phoenix as we stand here today,” Bettman said.

    As we stand here today …

    Is any decision imminent?

    “No,” Bettman said. “When it becomes imminent, we’ll tell you. We apparently aren’t operating on the same time frame that a lot of [reporters] are.”

    What is your time frame?

    “One that works on getting this project completed in a successful way,” Bettman said. “This is a work in progress, and it remains such. We’re continuing to work on it, and there are a number of things that are in play.”

    In a successful way …

    Bettman said that means keeping the Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz.

    Read More »from Gary Bettman on Coyotes sale: more interest than ever before
  • APDETROIT – The NHL is not only considering more outdoor games. It is considering more overseas games. Chief operating officer John Collins referred Sunday to a “European business plan” and ideas ranging from resurrecting the World Cup to starting something like a champions league.

    But first the NHL has to reach a deal to go to the Sochi Olympics, which are less than a year away now. There remain several open issues between the NHL, the NHL Players’ Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee. The four organizations will meet this week.

    “We’ve got to get to it sooner rather than later,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, “because doing next year’s schedule is obviously impacted by whether or not we go to the Olympics.”

    A primary issue appears to be insurance – who will pay to cover the contracts of NHLers putting their bodies at risk. But it goes beyond that. It includes branding and media rights for the NHL, access to venues for NHL officials and families, and transportation to and from Sochi. Bettman would not provide detail of how much progress has been made so far.

    “There are lots of issues,” Bettman said. “This doesn’t get done until all the essential elements get done, and so it doesn’t pay to focus on any one or two issues.”

    Mathieu Schneider, the special assistant to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, said the Olympics would be “a logistical nightmare” but said he was optimistic a deal would get done. He praised IIHF president Rene Fasel for bringing the sides together.

    “If it’s done properly, it could be an amazing hockey experience for everyone,” Schneider said. “Obviously the players want to go. The guys want to be there. That’s no secret.”

    Collins said the fate of the Premiere Games is tied to the Olympic Games. The NHL is not expected to send teams to Europe to start the regular season if it sends players to Sochi in mid-season. But the NHL could stage more than the Premiere Games in the future. The NHL and the NHLPA are considering a nation-on-nation tournament like the World Cup and a champions league concept.

    “Maybe we bring NHL teams over to play the best teams in Europe,” Collins said. “How do we stage that, and where do we play? That’s definitely something that we’re looking at.”

    Read More »from NHL looking to expand on ‘European business plan’
  • Getty ImagesDETROIT – The NHL isn’t satisfied with the return of the Winter Classic – not even a rescheduled match-up between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, expected to draw a record crowd of more than 110,000 to Michigan Stadium on New Year’s Day.

    The League wants more. It thinks the fans want more. And so it could hold multiple outdoor games in the United States as soon as next season, raising revenues and the sport’s profile in more markets.

    “It’s not necessarily a new conversation,” NHL chief operating officer John Collins said after a Winter Classic news conference at Joe Louis Arena. “We’ve been looking at this and talking about it for a while. But I think now we’re looking at it real hard.”

    The Fourth Period reported the NHL is close to a deal for a game featuring the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium. Player agent Allan Walsh tweeted the deal was done and the game likely would take place on Hockey Day in America.

    The Fourth Period also reported the NHL has been discussing a deal for a game featuring the New York Rangers and would prefer it to be played at Yankee Stadium. Writer Dave Pagnotta hinted at a Hockey Day in America doubleheader.

    Collins and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman declined to give details. Collins said league officials were discussing ideas with the Board of Governors, individual teams and the NHL Players’ Association.

    Asked specifically about the report of a game Dodger Stadium, Collins said: “It’s accurate from the standpoint of, we’re always looking at stuff. We have another finance committee meeting this week. So we’re laying out a lot of plans.”

    Read More »from Dodger Stadium Winter Classic? NHL wants multiple outdoor games
  • “Dropping the gloves” is such a critical part of a hockey fight that the term is synonymous for a fight itself.

    So what happens when neither combatant slips his mitts? This odd bit of whimsy from the Swiss Eishockey League, as Alain Berger of SC Bern and Sebastien Schilt of Gottéron have a goofy gloves-on match before some unsheathed fists fly at the end.

    The blame here falls on Alain Berger, who played 47 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs on 2011-12. Schilt, without a helmet, asked Berger, wearing a helmet with a visor, to drop his gloves during the fight. Berger responded by almost skating away and then bouncing around on his skates like Floyd Mayweather, apparently having seen enough of this Schilt.

    His opponent finally dropped his gloves and attacked Berger near the end of the “fight,” before Berger fell to the ice in a protected heap.

    We’ll give the fight a ‘10’ for trolling, and a ‘zilch’ for actual fighting.

    Here’s an exclusive image of their next fight.

    Read More »from Worst hockey fight of 2013? Swiss players have gloved comedy bout (Video)
  • The NHL lockout wiped out the 2013 Winter Classic in Detroit, but on Sunday, the league announced that the marquee game would return to the same place in 2014.

    However, the Winter Classic wasn't the only relatively new NHL tradition wiped out by the lockout. So too were the league's Premiere games, which for the last five years have sent NHL clubs to Europe to open the season in places like Helsinki, Stockholm and Prague, and unlike the Winter Classic, these games aren't coming back.

    From Larry Brooks at the New York Post:

    The future of the Premiere Games — which opened five straight NHL seasons before being wiped off the map by the lockout — will become part of the broader conversation between the league and the union regarding a comprehensive international program.

    Deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email that the league intends to have “planning discussions with the NHLPA in the near future.”

    Those discussions would include reviving the World Cup of Hockey as a midseason tournament to be played every four years between Olympics, thus guaranteeing a defined cycle of international best-on-best competition with which to showcase the sport.

    We bet teams were just lining up to go to Europe, seeing as how the last four NHL Premiere Games series showcased the soon-to-be Stanley Cup champion for that season.

    The NHL and NHLPA are still working with the IIHF and IOC to finalize a plan to send players to Sochi for next year's Winter Olympics. Who will pick up the costs of insuring players is a big hurdle still to be resolved. Incorporating a World Cup into the league's international calendar would benefit their ability to maximize profits and control such things as game times and content use, something, for the moment, that is in the hands of the IOC.

    While 2014 is the focus for now, what about 2018 when the Winter Olympics are in Pyeongchang, South Korea, 13 hours ahead of East Coast time? It's not ideal for the NHL to promote those games being played at early morning times, as opposed to a World Cup, held (mostly) in North American arenas that can be broadcast on primetime.

    Clearly, there's still a lot of work to be done, but the next step for leagues like the NHL, NFL, MLB and NBA is to further their international footprints. Their brands are already global, but there is still a great deal of growth to be had with the right plan.

    Read More »from Report: NHL’s European Premiere Games will not return for 2013-14 season

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