Top Line: Outdoor game a distraction?; Blue Jackets look sharp; more links
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Did the distraction of their upcoming Stadium Series date on Saturday night lead the Ducks to lose their first home game of the season? That's where one player is laying the blame for the team's sloppy execution in Tuesday night's streak-busting loss to the Jets.
• Though keeping local rivalries bubbling with outdoor games is a great idea, it looks like the NHL's schedule maker messed up because the post-Olympics stretch drive will be short on drama.
• The Penguins say they doubled their fan base in the wake of hosting the 2011 Winter Classic and the '12 NHL draft. That's the kind of return Los Angeles is hoping to cultivate with its outdoor game against Anaheim at Dodger Stadium.
• The hottest team in hockey is ... the Blue Jackets?!? Adam Proteau explains how these early-season sad sacks got their game in order, and says they've become a near-lock for the playoffs.
• It's not just that the Jackets are winning, it's that they're winning with ease.
• Their 7-1 loss to the Devils reflects a failure of the entire Blues team, but by allowing seven goals on just 23 shots, Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak showed why many believe that St. Louis needs to bring in another goalie in order to get to the next level.
• While Senators owner Eugene Melnyk continues to wage his bizarre, one-man-with-too-much-money battle to prove a crime that didn't happen, the players involved, Erik Karlsson and Matt Cooke have moved on.
• Smarts, hard work and heart are powering one of hockey's hottest, and most unlikely, goal scorers.
• Alexander Ovechkin is looking past the distractions and focusing on one thing: winning Olympic gold for Mother Russia.
• Family access was a big issue for the NHLPA during the negotiations surrounding Olympic participation. Now, with terrorist threats looming, some players are leaving their families at home.
• Fifteen NHL captains are going to Sochi. Stephen Whyno considers what impact their presence might have on their teams' leadership dynamics.
• Got time to settle in with a podcast? Here's wrestling great Chris Jericho swapping stories with his father, former Rangers forward Ted Irvine. Some really cool stuff here.
• This is everything. This is Ric Ocasek marrying Paulina Porzikova. This is Rocky beating Taxi Driver for the Oscar. This is getting 10 chicken wings when you only ordered six. A once-in-a-lifetime amazing moment that defies all explanation and changes everything, bringing joy to the joyless and hope to the hopeless. This is Jordie Benn not only earning a penalty shot ... but scoring on one, as well.
• Speaking of unexpected, how about this? Former Oilers bench boss Ralph Krueger landed a new job ... as a motivational coach for a Premier League soccer team.
• Mark Spector says that Edmonton's lack of a physical side is killing the team. After watching the Oilers let the Canucks' Zack Kassian skate around untouched all night, I think it might be a lack of heart.• Jim Rutherford has fired Paul Maurice twice ... but given the chance, the Hurricanes' GM says he'd hire him a third time. He might have to wait a while for his next opportunity, given the early returns on Maurice's tenure in Winnipeg.