For Friars, Message Is Simple: Win It For Marie

Written by Mike Salerno on .

(Photos courtesy of The New York Post)

Urgency.

That's the buzz word for a program that's gradually built themselves into a juggernaut in New York high school hockey over the course of the past two decades. For St. Anthony's, the time is now for so many reasons, most of which so they can properly pay tribute to the most integral piece of what's made them who they are, general manager Marie Drisco.

Now, the only way to cap an undefeated league season is to honor her with the one trophy they've yet to add to their collection.

Like St. Francis, they too were bested in consecutive seasons by Canisius and St. Joseph's, each time losing a hard-fought state championship game by one goal. The team features a number of players still smarting from a pair of second-place finishes that know another silver medal simply won't cut it the third time around.

Finally League Champions, St. Francis Sets Their Sights on State Title

Written by Mike Salerno on .

(Photos courtesy of The Sun News)

CSt. Francis defenseman David Kulczyk clears a loose puck away from his goalie David Nowak. St. Francis won the private school final, 4-1. (Photo by Joe Valenti/Metro Source courtesy of The Sun News)hampionship games are nothing new to head coach Craig Fattey's Red Raiders. Sunday's Western New York Federation finals matchup with Canisius marked the third consecutive season St. Francis had reached the league's title game at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

After being shutout in two previous trips to the home of the Buffalo Sabres, St. Francis found the back of the net three times in the final five minutes of regulation to propel them to a 4-1 victory and their first league championship since 1999.

"We had a small group of players who had been there before and felt that sting of not winning the championship," Fattey said. "They sort of said 'we want to do it different this year.' I think that's the biggest difference."

St. Francis has advanced to its first New York State Championship game against another team who had been defeated by Canisius and St. Joseph's in the two previous years. St. Anthony's is making its third consecutive appearance in the state final after an undefeated season in the Catholic High School Hockey League.

Milbury, Roenick Turn Debate on Nystrom's Hit On Letang Into Must-See TV

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

If you thought the hit Eric Nystrom planted on the Penguins' Kris Letang midway through the first period earlier tonight was explosive, man, you should've caught the analysis following the game.

At one point during their discussion heated exchange, analysts Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick appeared as if they were about to come to blows.

Milbury, who was adamant that Nystrom's hit was dirty, uncalled for and "showed no courage," was in complete contrast to Roenick. Luckily for us viewers, neither is ever shy about voicing their opinions.

At one point, Milbury placed his hand on JR's cheek, playfully showing how Letang's head snapped back following the hit, prompting a scowl from Roenick which looked like he was ready to beat Milbury with his own shoe.

The war of words, which lasted several minutes, culminated with subtle personal attacks being thrown at one another.

"You're getting soft," Roenick repeatedly told Iron Mike as he was leaving the segment. "I'm gunna go get him a Shirley Temple!"

"Good thing he's gone; What a relief that is!" Milbury said as Roenick made his way off the set. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out!"

For as much as it's easy to despise NBC for constantly putting our ears in harm's way whenever Pierre McGuire's constantly-moving mouth has a microphone in front of it, they deserve some giddy schoolgirl-like praise for affording us the opportunity of enjoying Milbury and Roenick going at it on live television.

This was just one of the many stops on the long road of altercations for the volatile duo. Who could forget during 2010's Olympic coverage, when the two had that heated debate over Ovechkin and Crosby?

Here's to more segments like this, and less of Pierre telling us what type of breakfast Jamie Benn ate while playing hockey in junior high school.

Capitals Seizing Control Of Season, Just In Time

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Let's roll the clocks back one week.

The Capitals had just been jolted twice in two days at the hands of the Senators and lowly Hurricanes by a combined score of 10-2. Head coach Dale Hunter was rapidly losing control of his team, criticizing the play of his starting goaltender publicly and a 20-year veteran privately. The locker room was falling apart at the seams.

The trade deadline was fast approaching. Fans and columnists were calling for a complete overhaul of what had clearly become a systemic problem inside the Verizon Center's home locker room.

The deadline came and passed, with the Capitals standing pat, neither addressing their problems nor selling disgruntled assets to other contenders. Their fans were left wondering how long they'd be stuck in hockey fan pergatory after so many years of playoff hell.

But while we were busy wondering what would become of the team that pretty much everyone thought would run away with the Southeast Division, something else happened. They started winning hockey games.

Are there still a boatload of problems in the locker room, starting with the head coach? You bet. But things in the nation's capital are looking up this week after Alex Ovechkin played the part of the hero, scoring the OT winner in the Capitals third win in a row last night against the Islanders. The goal brought as much enjoyment to the Washington captain as it did relief. See for yourself how Ovechkin reacted:

After two straight wins, Washington fell into a familiar hole last night against the Isles, who's own playoff hopes are holding on by a thread, down 2-0 in the third period. But Troy Brouwer, one of the players general manager George McPhee brought in this offseason to add grit, injected a heavy dose of it.

He scored twice from just outside the crease, the second coming with 25.5 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Michal Neuvirth, who has run into some problems of his own under Dale Hunter, has offered some stability between the pipes for the Caps, allowing just five goals in the last three starts. He's performed well enough of late that many have wondered if he's supplanted Tomas Vokoun as the starter.

For the moment, life is good for the Capitals. They've seized control of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, taking a one-point lead over divisional foe Winnipeg with two games in hand. They trail Florida by three points for the division lead. And even though they were unable to solve Evgeni Nabokov for over 56 minutes last night, they still found a way to get two points.

“You look at the guys’ faces and there was excitement and joy and relief and accomplishment,” Brooks Laich told CSN Washington. “We were scrappy. It’s nice to see perseverance and scrappy. Now we need to do it again.”

Wins like that are the ones that stick with you. They become a rallying point.

It took them long enough, but the NHL team with arguably the most talent on paper has some confidence. They've got their point of reference. Now the question becomes can they build on it?

Sabres' Kassian Dealt to Canucks for Hodgson

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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The NHL trade deadline came and went this afternoon, without much ado about any big names around the NHL. The most surprising move of the afternoon didn’t involve Rick Nash. Actually, it didn’t involve the Columbus Blue Jackets at all. And furthermore, it was announced to the public well after the 3 p.m. EST deadline.

No, we're not talking about Paul Gaustad being dealt to Nashville for a first-round pick. Although that, in it's own right, was surprising enough.

Around 3:45 p.m., word got out that the Vancouver Canucks had moved Alexander Sulzer and Cody Hodgson, one of this year’s potential Calder Trophy candidates, to the Buffalo Sabres for Marc-Andre Gragnani and former first-round pick Zack Kassian.

NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Written by Mike Salerno on .

NHL trade deadline day is finally upon us! Stay with us all day on here and on Twitter (@The_Scratches) for up-to-the minute breaking news on who's going where?

Early morning activity has the Sharks, Flyers, Canucks and Stars as some of the teams most actively pursuing moves, but nothing has been made official as of yet. Expect the Rangers, Capitals and Blackhawks to make some moves as well, though the magnitude of which is anyone's guess right now.

And of course, will Rick Nash remain in Columbus past 3 p.m. EST? Stay with us to find out!

Here's the full list of trade deadline transactions:

 

Zidlicky, Wolski on the Move; Hemsky Staying Put

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

The 2012 trade deadline is finally starting to pick up some steam. On the heals of Jeff Carter moving to the West Coast, both Marek Zidlicky and Wojtek Wolski have also changed addresses.

The Devils announced the acquisition of the veteran defenseman Zidlicky, prior to last night's contest against the Canucks. In exchange for the shifty blue-liner, the Devils sent defensemen Kurtis Foster, forwards Stephane Veilleux, Nick Palmieri, a second-round pick this year's draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2013.

Considering how Zidlicky had talked his way out of Minnesota, that's a pretty decent haul for Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher.

Veilleux and Foster will be making their second tour in Minnesota, as Veilleux was the Wild's third-round selection in 2001, while Foster spent parts of four seasons with the team.

Palmieri, much like Zidlicky, fell out of favor with his coach and is set to be a restricted free agent this summer. However, Palmieri possesses the upside to sway this deal heavily in the favor of the Wild, who after all, were very limited with the aging/disgruntled Zidlicky heading into the trade deadline.

The Edmonton Oilers also made headlines Friday, as they announced the contract extension of Ales Hemsky. The 28-year-old winger inked his name to a two-year, $10 million contract, in lieu of testing out the free-agent waters this summer. The former first-round pick has been plagued by injuries the past few years, and is suffering from an uncharacteristically down year as far as offensive production is concerned, yet the Oilers are hoping he could return to his form from season's past.

Even though he's only a few seasons removed from 70- and 60-point campaigns, some believe $5 million a year for Hemsky is a joke.

The New York Rangers also made headlines earlier this morning, as they announced a huge trade: Wojtek Wolski has been sent to the Florida Panthers for minor-leaguer defenseman Mike Vernace and a 2013 third-round pick.

It was remarkable that Rangers GM Glen Sather was able to get anything for Wolski, who has appeared in only nine games this season for the Rangers, after his season was hampered by both injuries and uselessness. Since returning from sports hernia surgery on Jan. 12, Wolski has only played in three games, as he hasn't exactly found coach John Tortorella's good side.

This deal is a win-win for both the Panthers and Rangers.

The Rangers cleared much needed cap space, shedding Wolski's $3.8 million contract and adding a decent draft selection, and the Panthers found themselves a viable offense weapon heading into the playoff stretch.

This is the third time Wolski has been involved in a deadline deal, providing an offensive punch in each of the previous deals.

Check back throughout the day, as we will be updating our page as the trades continue to roll in.

Rangers Toying With Putting Avery on Re-Entry Waivers

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

For the numerous NHL teams looking to add a piece of grit to their rosters heading into the playoff stretch, the New York Rangers just may have the answer. Rangers general manager Glen Sather, is debating placing the firery Sean Avery on re-entry waivers... again.

According to the New York Posts' Larry Brooks, the Rangers would have to decide whether or not to place Avery on waivers by noon on Saturday, or he will not be eligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season due to League By-laws.

It was a near-deadline deal that initially brought Avery from the Kings to the Rangers, which elevated a slumbering Rangers squad into the playoffs with his jolt to the lineup. Back in 2007, when the Rangers sent forward Jason Ward to the Kings for the pesky Avery, they were a slipping team in desperate need of a shock to propel themselves into the postseason. Avery provided that exact shock. Over the final 29 games of the season, the Rangers rattled off a 17-6-6 record heading into the playoffs.

Avery provided an offensive spark as well, scoring eight goals and adding 12 assists through his 29 games with the Rangers.

His contribution continued into the playoffs as well, as he was a key factor in the Rangers advancing past the Atlanta Thrashers, as he completely took superstar Ilya Kovalchuk off his game throughout the series.

That is what Sean Avery can bring to the table.

However, he's also capable of bringing this...

Avery hasn't played a game in the NHL since Dec. 10, after being demoted to the Rangers' AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale--for the second time this season. In fact, Avery hasn't played at all since Jan. 27, when things went from bad to worse with his new team.

The Whale, whose season took a turn for the worst the day that Avery re-joined the club losing 10-consecutive games, had its boiling point against the Wilkes-Barre Penguins on Jan. 27. After scoring the game-tying goal on a breakaway, Avery snapped, getting into an altercation with a Penguins defensemen immediately following the goal. The result? Fourteen minutes in penalties and another loss for the Whale.

Avery hasn't seen the ice since.

That's the Avery gamble. He has the potential to ignite a team with his pesky, line-toeing play, as well as adding a modest scoring touch. There's one team that might be willing to take that gamble.

That is, of course, unless the Flames accidentally had interest in Avery. I mean, after all, they're going for it!

Playoff-Like Atmosphere for Thursday Night's Action

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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Nine games were on the agenda for the NHL last night, with seven of the teams in action within six points of eighth place in their conference. Of the nine games, seven were decided by one goal, two were decided by two goals, and five were decided by shoot-out. Across the board, teams were giving us a taste of the playoff push on the horizon.

And the Red Wings fearfully learned that the only team that can win at Joe Louis Arena may be the team that poses them the greatest challenge heading into April.

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With Carter Dealt, Rumor Focus Turns To Nash, Brown

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

After the Kings' blockbuster deal with Columbus earlier tonight, newly-acquired Jeff Carter didn't even have time to order a round of man sodas shots of wheat grass for him and his old pal Mike Richards, before his name was already bumped down the water cooler gossip list.

TSN's Bob McKenzie had a very interesting tidbit of information towards the end of tonight's TradeCentre Insider Trading segment. And by tidbit, I mean humaangas beeg! According to McKenzie, in addition to Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier, captain Dustin Brown could also possibly be changing addresses prior to Monday's trade deadline.


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