Around the Net – your morning skate around the league

The flowers are blooming, the birds are tweeting and spring has officially arrived in Pittsburgh which means one thing – Playoff hockey is right around the corner.

The flowers are blooming, the birds are tweeting and spring has officially arrived in Pittsburgh which means one thing – Playoff hockey is right around the corner. The Penguins only have four more games on the regular season schedule, the first of which is a date with the Capitals at Mellon Arena tonight. They are still contending for their division title as well as playoff position in the top four and the final four will go a long way towards determining their final slotting.

I had been convinced that the schedule was laid out in a way that would allow the Penguins to secure the Atlantic Division title, however things haven’t exactly gone according to plan to this point. I think that they can still take the crown, but it is going to require a lot of moving parts to come together. What do you guys think? Can it still happen?

While you folks are contemplating that thought, I will jump right into today’s edition of Around the Rink – your morning skate around the league.

Dave Molinari continues his series of articles on what the Pens are going to do better heading into the playoffs. It isn’t Dave’s fault that his pieces have gone this direction, it is more a matter of what the boys have been saying in the room. They know that they have been inconsistent and have been saying all of the right things about improvements that they will make moving forward.

Pens will focus on better performances

A month ago it seemed as if Sidney Crosby was a lock for 50 goals, but he has since hit a bit of a dry spell and is still sitting at 47 with just four games to play. The Penguins captain is still hoping to reach the milestone for the first time in his career, but is putting team goals first.

Crosby still hoping for 50, but not dwelling on it

Josh Yohe of the Tribune Review gives us this notebook… he caught up with Mike Rupp and got his thoughts on making his return to the line-up this evening in light of the injury to Chris Kunitz.

Rupp returns to the line-up

The Los Angeles Kings have had a lot to be happy about this season and the list continues to grow. One of their top prospects, goaltender Jonathan Bernier, has been named the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender for the 2009-10 season, as voted by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 29 cities.

Bernier named AHL’s outstanding goaltender

The Vancouver Canucks have been one the best teams out West over the second half of the season, unfortunately they have just received a setback in the form of an injury to Christian Ehrhoff. Can they overcome the loss?

Vital Ehrhoff goes down leaving Canucks looking for defensive answers

The Canadiens are cruising towards locking up a playoff spot right now and former Penguins’ defenseman Hal Gill sees some similarities between what the Habs are doing right now and what the Penguins did last year en route to the Cup.

Sleepers hope to catch lightning in a bottle

Milan Michalek is very close to returning to the Ottawa Senators — great news for him and the team considering how ugly his leg injury looked when it occurred.

Michalek close to returning

Jaro Halak humble in receiving the news that he had been named the league’s number one star for week last week. The Habs goaltender posted back to back shut outs in which he made a combined 64 saves and has his team in position to clinch a playoff spot.

Halak humble in receiving honor

Henrik Sedin is only a handful of games away from securing the first major award of his career, but he is not concerned with the Art Ross race. He realizes that he is neck and neck with two gifted scorers and that it would be foolish to dwell. Sedin leads Ovechkin by two points and Sidney Crosby by nine.

Sedin closing in on Art Ross

The Phoenix Coyotes have opened up many eyes around the league and find themselves in unchartered waters…the playoffs.

Coyotes avoid extinction

David Booth met with the media yesterday for the first time since sustaining his second concussion of the season. He feels like the road to recovery will be an easier one this time around.

Booth on the road back…again

More later…