By Allan Muir
A notated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• The Penguins believe that Evgeni Malkin will step it up as they try to compensate for the long-term loss of Sidney Crosby. Malkin has played 87 (!!) games without Crosby in the lineup. How's he done? How about 54 goals and 122 points? The Pens will be alright.
• The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson ruminates on a variety of subjects including how the Pens' roster could shape up without Crosby and a passel of trade rumors. Good stuff, as always.
• Thomas Vanek doesn't want to be part of a long-term rebuild in Buffalo. When your superstar openly questions the direction of the organization, you either need to make him happy or ship him out.
• Keep an eye on our Trade Rumor Tracker ahead of Wednesday's deadline. It's constantly updated with the latest scuttlebutt, like this word that the Leafs are pursuing not just Roberto Luongo, but a trio of defensemen as well. I don't believe for a minute that Dmitry Kulikov is in play, but Keith Yandle and Luongo feel like real possibilities.
• A Russian hockey player died yesterday after taking a head shot: 33-year-old Dmitri Uchaykin was playing in the top Kazakhstani league. Terribly sad story. SI.com's Stu Hackel wonders if the tragedy will have any effect on the NHL.
• Brandon Saad has been saddled with a terrible nickname, but it seems to make sense considering the impact he's had on the Blackhawks. Still, geez, they've got to come up with something better for the kid who had three points to lead Chicago to a 7-1 rout of the Red Wings. Here's something that's much more fitting for a rookie...although the explanation is pretty brutal.
• "Ugly" is an understatement of how the Red Wings performed at home yesterday. Detroit looks like a team that no one will be afraid to draw in the opening round of the playoffs.
• A late penalty to Troy Brouwer turned the tide against a Capitals team that can't find traction in its quest for the playoffs.
• The Dallas Stars backed themselves, and coach Glen Gulutzan, into a corner with a scared, gutless performance against the Los Angeles Kings. Tonight's game against the Ducks isn't just about their season, it's about his job now. Their willingness to compete will tell the tale.
• There aren't many off-season acquisitions that worked out better than Montreal's signing of Brandon Prust. Teams don't win without a guy like that in the lineup.
• Nazem Kadri is getting all the attention in Toronto, but coach Randy Carlyle is the key to the turnaround of the Maple Leafs.
• The Ducks outshot Columbus 17-1 in the third period, but dropped to 1-4-1 in their last six when Mark Letestu clinched the game in OT for the Blue Jackets. The offense has dried up for the Ducks, who have just one power play goal in their last 11 games. Look for them to push hard for a second-line center before Wednesday.
• The Ottawa Senators head off today for their longest road trip of the season.. The seven-game swing could see them lock up a playoff spot...or drop them into a race to the finish.
• The Rangers haven't scored in 127:47. "We're just not finishing," says
Obvious Man John Tortorella.
• The Flyers are likely to be quiet at the deadline with an eye on making needed improvements over the summer.
• Ryane Clowe trade talk hasn't been a distraction in San Jose. You know what is a distraction? No goals on the season.
• Hate having to put another sad story in here, but this piece on the deteriorating mental health of Gordie Howe is worth a read. That autograph signing at the Detroit game yesterday may have been his final public appearance.
• Amanda Kessel moves on from the unbeaten national champion Gophers to Team USA
for the Women's World Championships this week.