The Pittsburgh Penguins end the year on the three game losing streak, coming off two tough loses to the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. The Penguins were off today and will practice in Pittsburgh tomorrow morning before they depart for Florida.
Sidney Crosby will end the decade as the highest scoring Penguin for this decade –330 GP – 155 goals – 290 assists – 445 pts – +42
*Team USA will name their 2010 Olympic roster tomorrow afternoon during the Winter Classic. Representatives began informing players who did not make the squad as early as Monday. Defenseman Brooks Orpik didn’t receive one of those calls. Orpik is a lock to make the team along with former teammate Ryan Malone.
*New Jersey Devils defenseman Paul Martin will be named to the squad. Martin is expected to return to action by Late January and has been on the team for months.
Based on what I’ve been hearing, these 6 defensemen have been locks for months; Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins, Paul Martin, New Jersey Devils, Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings, Erik Johnson, St. Louis Blues, Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators, Mike Komisarek, Toronto Maple Leafs.
Down the stretch, sources tell me Jack Johnson, Los Angeles Kings, Ryan Whitney, Anaheim Ducks, Zach Bogosian, Atlanta Thrashers, and Rob Scuderi, Los Angeles have been evaluated for the final defenseman spot.
Brian Burke is a big fan of Atlanta Thrashers 19 year old defenseman Zach Bogosian but Bogosian has struggled of late which kept Rob Scuderi in the mix, although Scuderi has been considered a major longshot.
Indications are the final spot likely came down to Jack Johnson and Ryan Whitney as a decision wasn’t made until the early part of this week.
*Bill Guerin making the team is just talk around Pittsburgh I’m told. That’s not a knock on Guerin whose played extremely well this season.
Mid-Season NHL Notes
Latest Buzz: The New Jersey Devils are the hottest team in hockey winning 14 of their last 17 games and own the best record in the NHL (28-9-1).
As good as the Devils have been this season, they need to add a dynamic forward alongside Zach Parise. Parise is the most under-rated player in the game who continues to produce as one of the games top players without having an Evgeni Malkin or Dany Heatley to play with.
Top 5 Stanley Cup Contenders
Eastern Conference: New Jersey (28-9-1), Pittsburgh (26-14-1), Washington (24-10-6)
Western Conference: San Jose (25-8-7), Chicago (26-10-3)
On the cusp of being contenders
*In the East, Buffalo (54 pts) could join the “top three” as Cup contenders in the second half of the season but the Sabres still have a lot of prove.
Boston (47 pts) has lacked consistency and is not playing at the level of last years team. One reason for that is a number of players had career years in 08-09. That’s not happening this year along with injuries and the loss of Phil Kessel.
However, the Bruins could be a sleeper in the East and have the prospects and draft picks to make a significant trade or two.
*In the West, Phoenix (53 pts), Colorado (52 pts), Nashville (49pts), and Los Angeles (47 pts) are teams that have exceeded expectations but like Buffalo, still have a lot of prove in the second half of the season.
Colorado and Phoenix have yet to slow down which has been the surprise of the season.
Calgary (49 pts), or Vancouver (47 pts) still have to be considered the favorites to win the Northwest division over Colorado.
Detroit has yet to hit their stride and they will be lurking in the second half of the season.