By Allan Muir
A notated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Is the Peter Laviolette era coming to an end in Philadelphia? The Flyers' rock-bottom effort in a 5-2 loss to New Jersey had all the hallmarks of a team playing to get its coach fired.
• Is a willingness to settle games in the shootout leading to third-period malaise?
• After his effort to win tickets to Thursday night's game in Dallas was denied, we'll have to wait and see if Bobby Ryan shows up for the game against the Stars.
• Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow are doubtful against the Ducks, meaning that the scouts who have been trailing the Stars may end up hanging out downstairs like they did Tuesday night.
• Brad Marchand is mixing in a little more skill with his customary swagger for the Bruins. Come on, admit it...no matter how much you hate him, you'd take him on your team in a heart beat.
• It's amazing that Jake Gardiner didn't fire his agent immediately after Tuesday night's freedom tweets. If he was going to be called up to Toronto at some point this season, that door has probably slammed shut.
• The Vancouver Canucks are wondering why it's open season on Alex Burrows. No doubt he takes a beating out there, but I'm not sure he gets it any worse than anyone else who makes a living in the goal mouth.
• Either local business leaders don't know that the Wild haven't been to the playoffs in four years, or team owner Craig Leipold figured his charm alone would sell his claims that Minnesota has an open Stanley Cup window.
• Miikka Kiprusoff responded to his SoCal snub with a super-heroic performance against the Red Wings. Detroit coach Mike Babcock accused his team of giving the game away with an embarrassing third period effort.
• The Wings are closing in on a contract extension with goaltender Jimmy Howard and hope to have deals done with pending UFA's Damien Brunner and Val Filppula before the end of the regular season.
• Is there a better wheeler and dealer in the league than Pittsburgh's Ray Shero? Take a look at the guys doing damage for that team and it sure seems like he's always a step ahead of the other guy...so you can go ahead and ignore those Kris Letang trade rumors...at least for now.
• Sad news yesterday out of Montreal, where Blake Geoffrion informed the team that he is considering retirement after suffering a fractured skull in an AHL game last November. That would make for a tragic end to a career that seemed so magical when he carried on the family tradition with a 13-game stint for the Habs last season.
• Should Adam Oates reunite Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom? Seems to me like it would set both of them back into the habits that Oates was trying to get them to break, but it's fair to say the pressure is on for some kind of move in order to revive Washington's flagging playoff hopes.
• Columbus' game against Chicago tonight could be the teams' last as divisional foes. • No. 1 seed U-Mass Lowell hardly caught a break with Maine as its first-round match-up, but it's the behind-the-bench subplot that could make this really interesting.