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NHL Morning Papers

Saturday Morning NHL Papers (Eastern Conference): Senators in the Forsberg running, Leafs crawl out of basement, Victor Hedman learns value of keeping your head up, can Tortorella keep tight leash on Avery?

Jordan Staal is getting more ice time; Devils sign McAmmond to a two-way contract; Flyers fourth line powers them to victory; Jason Spezza still hopeful about Olympics; Caps losing players all over the place; Thrashers on a losing streak; Hurricanes just can’t win. These stories and more after the jump.

Atlantic Division

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins will get an up-close look at duo of Heatley and Thornton when they play the Sharks tonight and try to avoid losing two games in a row for the first time this season.  After Tyler Kennedy missed practice yesterday at Sharks Ice, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma confirmed that the right winger has been shelved again by his injury.  With the injury to Malkin, it should come as no surprise that Jordan Staal is getting more minutes and it appears that he is thriving with the additional responsibility.
  • Sean Avery and Dion Phaneuf will be facing each other for the first time since the words, “sloppy seconds,” launched a mini-NHL war but expect Coach Tortorella to keep a short leash on the feisty Ranger.
  • Yann Danis is settling in quite comfortably as Martin Brodeur’s backup and the Devils finally appear to be getting comfortable at Prudential Center.  While they lost defenseman Jay Leach to the Montreal Canadiens Friday on re-entry waivers, the Devils signed center Dean McAmmond to a two-way contract.
  • Earlier today we were talking about the Sabres rolling a balanced attack while the Flyers were relying on the top two for production, but Friday night the Flyers fourth line powered them to a victory.
  • After the New York Islanders reeled off four straight wins, they are back to a two game losing streak and expect a tough match-up tonight against the Thrashers.

Northeast Division

  • For one of the first times this season, the Buffalo Sabres came out flat and were the inferior team as they fell to the visiting Flyers. 
  • It appears that every team is looking closely at Peter Forsberg as he plays in the Karjala Cup in Finland and now the Ottawa Senators can be added to that list.  Perhaps Sens goaltender Pascal Leclaire is trying to make Martin Brodeur feel too good about himself in hope that he lets down his guard when they face off tonight.  Executive director Steve Yzerman will announce his choices for Team Canada on Dec. 31 and Jason Spezza is still hopeful he’ll be on the team that goes for gold at February’s Olympics in Vancouver.
  • Roman Hamrlik has become the workhorse of the Canadiens’ defence corps and he can expect that trend to continue as he takes on the team that drafted him tonight at the Bell Centre.
  • Bruins left winger Daniel Paille was a numbers casualty with the Buffalo Sabres but insists that tonight’s game against his former club isn’t about payback.  Editor’s NoteI saw him destroy Red Wing Ville Leino with a hit I felt in the upper bowl of the Joe on Tuesday so his former mates better hope he isn’t holding any grudges.
  • In a battle of bad teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs earned their way out of the NHL’s basement by following a formula good teams find works for them.  Leafs winger Jason Blake can’t remember ever having played with a linemate who can skate as fast as Phil Kessel.  Ron Wilson and his coaching staff had seen enough, so after an opening 20 minutes in which his team had dug itself into yet another 2-0 hole against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes, he let them have it in the intermission.

Southeast Division

  • It certainly looks as if the Washington Capitals will be without Alex Ovechkin for at least two more games, so they’re going to have more chances to show they can play well without him.  The good news is they won on Friday but they were losing a player a period.
  • When he was asked the difference between playing in North America and Europe, the Lightning’s Victor Hedman talked about the quicker NHL game and making faster decisions. “And,” he deadpanned, “keep your head up.”
  • The Atlanta Thrashers are on a roll at home, but unfortunately for the team it is a four game home losing streak, which was added to as they fell behind the Jackets early last night.
  • The Florida Panthers couldn’t take advantage of Alex Ovechkin’s absence and a five-minute power play, falling to the Caps after three victories in a row.  On the positive news front Radek Dvorak didn’t need surgery on his left knee, but he will have to wear a brace for a while.
  • Good or bad teams, Eastern or Western Conference, American or Canadian, the Carolina Hurricanes do not discriminate when it comes to losing.