The Toronto Maple Leafs got a breath of fresh air yesterday, literally and figuratively.
Mired in a six-game losing streak, out of a playoff position and dealing with rumours about firing the coach and trading the captain, the team’s mood has been anything but light.
However, instead of bearing down before tonight’s game against Buffalo, the Leafs instead let loose a bit with their first modern-day outdoor practice.
Nineteen days from today, the Olympic hockey tournament will begin in Turin, Italy.
Peter Forsberg likely will be there to represent Sweden.
But whether the Flyers’ superstar center should make the trip or stay home and rest his ailing groin in preparation for the rest of the NHL season and the playoff run, seems as legitimate a question as there is for the Flyers right now.
Repetition has been good for Jussi Jokinen in shootouts.
Jokinen and Sergei Zubov scored shootout goals on backhanders to lift the Dallas Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.
“I’ve used the same move and the same shot on all my shootouts,” said Jokinen, who is 7-for-7 using the backhander in shootouts. “So why change up on something that is working?”
The Edmonton Oilers improved their defense by making two trades Thursday, acquiring Jaroslav Spacek from the Chicago Blackhawks and Dick Tarnstrom from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe first sent forward Jani Rita and defenseman Cory Cross to Pittsburgh for Tarnstrom, then shipped left wing Tony Salmelainen to Chicago for Spacek.
Immediately after Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock scheduled a team meeting for yesterday.
There was no practice, just a meeting lasting more than an hour to discuss how a team could go from 8-2-1 on the road to 1-2-1 at home, with six losses in nine games overall.
“Every year, teams have a meeting or two,” defenseman Derian Hatcher said. “This is somewhat similar, a chance to listen and say what you want and listen to others. It’s a chance to get players to think about stuff.
“Everyone’s frustrated. You can only talk so much after games. The last 10 days, there has been a lot of talking. Not a whole lot of it sunk in.”
Two of the meeting’s topics were cutting down on turnovers and raising the level of concentration in games. Much of what was discussed, participants said, was reinforcing the positives: what the Flyers did well in the season’s first half and what they are doing poorly since.
Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen withdrew from Finland’s Olympic team on Thursday, saying he hasn’t fully recovered from a groin injury that kept him out of 35 games.
Lehtonen, who was injured in the season opener, returned to the Atlanta lineup in late December and helped the Thrashers climb back into playoff contention. He came into Thursday’s game against Carolina with 6-4-1 record and a 2.57 goals-against average.