Rather than the standard previews of Central Division foes from an outsider’s point of view, I decided to take a different approach. This week, Behind Enemy Lines will take a look at our divisional rivals through the eyes of those invested in the team in one way or another. Today, it’s the Nashville Predators and Dirk Hoag, who runs the fantastic blog, On the Forecheck
Bartl: The major development surrounding the Predators quite obviously was the Shea Weber arbitration award, which set a new record. However, the situation dragged on for a good amount of time, with each side very far off on their requested salary. With no long-term contract, does this situation become a distraction for Weber or the team during the season?
Dirk: Absolutely, this will be a distraction hanging over the team until some long-term resolution is found. You can bet that media will ask about this situation in every NHL city the Preds visit, and the Canadian media in particular will speculate often about how their Olympic hero would look great playing north of the border. When the going gets tough during the season, Weber’s captaincy will naturally come into question – how does it look when your team leader couldn’t even agree on a one-year contract with the team? All those questions and more will be fair game.
Blackhawks-Canucks III begins Wednesday, with the hated rivals set to do battle once again. To gain a bit more insight into the opponent, I traded emails with Vancouver Sun beat writer, Brad Ziemer, who has done a fantastic job of covering the Canucks.
Ziemer gives us his thoughts on the the differences between previous Vancouver teams, the resurgence of Roberto Luongo, the keys to the series and his prediction.
You may not enjoy his answers.
Bartl: Everyone knows the playoff history between the Blackhawks and Canucks. They don’t like each other. However, Vancouver enters this series as the favorite while the Blackhawks are backing in with a bit of luck. What are some noticeable differences from this year’s Canucks team and the two previous teams which lost to Chicago?
Ziemer: This is a much more confident and mature Canuck team. Guys like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, who used to waste much of their energy trash-talking and getting involved in scrums, have for the most part stuck to hockey this season. The team is also much deeper on defence. They enter the playoffs with their top six defencemen all healthy for the first time all season.
Welcome back to the return of Behind Enemy Lines! Today, Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald answers a few questions regarding the Flames’ surge up the Western Conference standings, the previous three matchups this season and the resurgence of Jarome Iginla.
It’s clear Vicki put a lot of thought into her answers. If this is one interview you read all the way through, make sure it’s this one.
Bartl: The fluctuating Western Conference standings reordered again Tuesday with Calgary’s win against St. Louis, moving the Flames back ahead of the Blackhawks. Can you shed some light on how Calgary has responded to what’s at stake with each game as it shoots to return to the postseason?
Hall: The Flames have basically been fighting for their playoff lives since Christmas. Seriously. They languished in 14th place at the time and had little, if any, chance of clawing back into the race. Somehow, they’ve done just that by breaking the season into three-game segments and pledging to win at least two out of every three. They’ve accomplished that goal, thus far, but much work remains.
Click the jump for the rest of the Q&A
Welcome to a special follow-up edition of Behind Enemy Lines. Today we get the perspective of St. Louis Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford, who covers the team for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jeremy had a busy weekend and it gets busier tonight, with the Blues playing their fourth game in five nights. He was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Click the jump for the Q&A with Jeremy Rutherford
Aaron Portzline, the beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch, was kind enough to answer a few of Bartl’s questions before tonight’s Blackhawks-Blue Jackets matchup at the United Center. Much like Wednesday, playoff positioning is the story as we get into the stretch run. You can check out Aaron’s coverage on the Puck-Rakers Blog on the Dispatch’s website. Enjoy!
Click the jump for the Q&A with Aaron Portzline
Plus a bunch more. Have a listen and get a laugh rather than killing your boss while you hate your job today.
The tragic passing of former Chicago Blackhawk and legendary enforcer Bob Probert brought out the soft side in some of his fondest sparring partners.
Ken Daneyko referred to Probert as a “teddy bear” off the ice, and Tie Domi has spoken nothing but kind words since learning of Probert’s death. They shared his personal struggles and related to Probert, knowing Probert dropped the gloves far less times to throw fists on the ice than he did to wage wars with himself off it.
Stu Grimson needed some time to compose himself after learing of Probert’s death, remembering Probert as a man he fought relentlessly during his career then developed a relationship with after hanging up the skates.
“Bob was both a friend and a foe,” Grimson said through e-mail from Nashville. “he was my fiercest rival on the ice, but I was able to get to know him more after we retired.”
The two bonded during a trip to Afghanistan when they visited Canadian troops a few years back.
“I was really fond of Bob,” Grimson said. “He was a great guy. The hockey family will miss him, though not nearly as much as his young family. This is tragic news.”
The Blackhawks honored Probert with a Heritage Night on February 22, 2009.
Here’s a video montage of some of Probert’s best fights. RIP, Bob.