Stuff breaking all over the place as we head toward the 7 p.m. faceoff between the Sabres and Senators. Follow along:
1). The Thrashers have told Ilya Kovalchuk he's getting traded and it looks like sooner rather than later, well before the March 3 deadline. There's a lot of desperate teams in the East, like the Bruins, Flyers and Rangers, would would take on a rental. Lots of talk about the Kings too. Forget about the Sabres and throw out the money. The first time Kovalchuk took a 90-second shift and floated up and down the ice without backchecking, Lindy Ruff's head might implode. Not a guy to fit this system.
2). The Blue Jackets have fired Ken Hitchcock and named Claude Noel their interim coach. Bummer. I was planning to chat up Hitchcock Saturday morning when the Sabres got to Columbus after his summer week in Calgary on the Team Canada staff with Ruff. Hitchcock got the Jackets to the playoffs for the first time last year but they're a disaster this season, largely because Steve Mason couldn't duplicate his Calder Trophy form in goal. Why today? The cynic in me says the Jackets did it on Ohio State football recruiting day so it wouldn't get much attention in their town.
3). Might Claude Julien be next? The Bruins are 0-6-2 in their last eight games -- their worst stretch since the 1955-56 season -- and in danger of missing the playoffs after winning the East last year. Last night's 4-1 loss to the red-hot Capitals left them 12th in the East and they've scored just 12 goals in those eight games. Think Kovalchuk might help? Guess Daniel Paille hasn't.
4). Speaking of the Caps, they go for their 12th straight win tomorrow against the Rangers. They have six games left before the Olympic break and if they win them all, they would tie the NHL record of 17 set by the 92-93 Penguins. Where would No. 18 potentially be? In their first game after the break. March 3. In HSBC Arena. The night after the Sabres open the post-Oly period in Pittsburgh. Ooof.
5). Major boo an hour ago to the IIHF, which announced the pools and pairings for the World Junior Championships here next year. The U.S. and Canada are not in the same pool and may not meet at all. Bummer. That US-Switzerland game on New Year's Eve doesn't have the same cachet as a potential US-Canada. The schedule runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5 with no game on Jan. 1 (the Sabres may try to sneak in a home game there).
7 pm update: A clarification from the Sabres -- the pools are not arbitrary. IIHF rules mandate the defending champion (US) is the No. 1 seed in Pool A and the silver medalist (Canada) becomes the No. 1 seed in Pool B. That, of course, means that they can't meet until the medal round. Still, it would be pretty horrible if a World Championship was held in Buffalo with no US-Canada matchup.
taggedNHL | NHL trade deadline | Olympics | Sabres | World Junior Championships