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Posted On Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 12:28 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Over the Boards blog

Rosen's mailbag - Dec. 3, 2014

Here is the Dec. 3 edition of Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

Do the Tampa Bay Lightning strike you as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender now? Or do they need other pieces? -- @tblightning491

The Lightning don't need other pieces. They are deep, skilled and talented. They have three legitimate scoring lines. They have defensemen who pressure the puck all over the ice and pinch into the offensive zone and are able to sustain puck possession. They don't defend; they attack. They have an elite power play, an elite scorer in Steven Stamkos, and a goalie in Ben Bishop who was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season and has been solid this season. They also have a coach who appears to know how to push all the right buttons while staying on the good side of his players, an important attribute in dealing with athletes today.

But I can't say the Lightning have everything necessary to contend for the Stanley Cup this season. They are not battle-tested. They have not been hardened by a long, grueling Stanley Cup Playoff series. As individuals several players have playoff experience, but as a team they do not. That's the only thing that is keeping the Lightning back this season.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.02.2014 / 11:13 AM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Over the Boards blog

Pressuring puck proving key to Lightning's success

NEW YORK -- In a span of 15 days the Tampa Bay Lightning scored 15 goals and beat the New York Rangers three times in regulation. A big reason is the intense and, according to Rangers center Derick Brassard, rare level of pressure the Lightning apply all over the ice.

"They play a unique style that we don't see a lot," Brassard said prior to Tampa Bay's 6-3 win against the Rangers on Monday at Madison Square Garden. "Even Pittsburgh and the other offensive teams, they don't really play like those guys. It's the way they're built. They're built with three scoring lines and one checking line. They're young, hungry, skilled with big D-men who move well and pinch everywhere. They make you make a lot of decisions."

Brassard hit on exactly how the Lightning try to play against every team. The object, or rather edict from coach Jon Cooper, is to pressure the puck whenever possible and wherever possible no matter the position.

"We try to eliminate as many odd-man rushes as we can and try to be reliable both offensively and defensively, but being aggressive in the offensive zone is usually a pretty good defensive structure," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "If you're aggressive up ice you're going to have the puck more. That's our mentality, trying to be aggressive all over the ice."

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Posted On Monday, 12.01.2014 / 1:30 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Lightning at Rangers

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers are looking at their game Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) as a measuring-stick game, particularly since they have lost to the Lightning twice in the past 15 days.

The Lightning still are trying to get used to being the team against which others measure themselves. It's a concept coach Jon Cooper called flattering but hard to understand, even though Tampa Bay's record and statistics suggest it should be easy to figure out.

The Lightning are tied with the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders for the most points in the Eastern Conference with 34. They lead the NHL with 15 regulation/overtime wins and are the highest scoring team in the League with 3.50 goals per game. They are third on the power play at 24.4 percent.

"I guess when you're looking at your own team and you're with them every single day you can poke holes in them," Cooper said. "I sit and watch games and I'm like, 'Geez, they look good.' I was watching the Rangers the other night and I was going, 'Holy cow, they have a heck of a hockey team and they keep shutting guys out.' Then you actually go back and say, 'Oh, we actually beat them twice.' You don't really ever think of it that way. I don't think you give your own team enough credit."

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.12.2014 / 10:51 AM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Over the Boards blog

Rosen's mailbag - Nov. 12, 2014

Here is the Nov. 12 edition of Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for a top-six wing to acquire before the NHL Trade Deadline. Who do you see as a potential fit? -- @Idlematt

I think the Penguins are hoping Beau Bennett plays his way into the top-six rotation and stays there, but that would mean he has to stay healthy, which has obviously been a problem. He played his first game of the season Tuesday and was mainly on the fourth line.

The good thing is Pittsburgh has time here to see if Bennett can stay healthy and be a reliable wing in the top-six, ideally on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis. If he can't, I absolutely see the Penguins going into the trade market for a top-six wing. It would likely be a reasonably priced veteran player in the final year of his contract currently playing for a team that is either deep at forward or isn't likely going to contend.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.11.2014 / 3:20 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Over the Boards blog

Penguins penalty kill producing positive results

NEW YORK -- Goals get celebrated, so it's no surprise the Pittsburgh Penguins power play has gotten more attention than their equally impressive penalty kill.

The Penguins are on a record-setting power-play pace at 37.5 percent coming into their game Tuesday against the New York Rangers. The 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens have the modern-era record for the best power play over a full season in NHL history at 31.88 percent.

But to ignore what the Penguins have done on the penalty kill, particularly their perfection in the past 10 games, is to ignore 50 percent of what has made Pittsburgh's special teams the best in the NHL this season.

The Penguins are third on the penalty kill (88.5 percent) and carry a streak of 37 consecutive successful kills into Madison Square Garden. They set a club record Saturday with their 10th consecutive game without allowing a power-play goal.

Pittsburgh has outscored the opposition 15-0 in special teams in the past 10 games. It is 8-1-1 in those games and is currently riding a seven-game winning streak.

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.11.2014 / 1:48 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Penguins at Rangers

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers center Derek Stepan is learning the inevitable lesson that coming back from an extended absence because of an injury is hard work and requires as much mental stamina as it does physical stamina.

Stepan will play his third game of the season Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden.

He returned last Saturday at the Toronto Maple Leafs, and played again Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers. He had an assist in New York's 5-4 loss to Toronto, but his missed defensive assignment on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins resulted in Edmonton's first goal in the Oilers' 3-1 win.

"I wish I could tell you right now, 'Hey, we had back-to-back and now I can start going,'" Stepan said. "I wish I could say that I got my two games in and now I'm ready to go, but ideally I need to find ways to play 60 minutes, closer to what I did in Toronto, and just slowly start getting my game back."

Stepan missed the first 11 games of the season after fracturing his right leg in training camp. He previously had not missed a regular-season game in his career, a span of 294 games.

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Posted On Monday, 11.10.2014 / 10:32 AM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Over the Boards blog

Oilers' Nugent-Hopkins makes strides in fourth season

NEW YORK -- Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is starting to show why he declined an invitation from Hockey Canada to play in the 2014 IIHF World Championship in order to dedicate himself to his offseason strength and conditioning training program.

Further proof came Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, where Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, scored a goal, had an assist, and overall showed his strength on the puck and on his skates in a 3-1 win against the New York Rangers.

Nugent-Hopkins has nine points in his past 10 games. He's noticeably thicker in his upper body without his pads and sweater on, and he showed the Rangers how much more powerful he is on the ice, prompting coach Dallas Eakins to offer this analysis:

"This kid is coming like gangbusters right now," Eakins said.

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Posted On Sunday, 11.09.2014 / 4:20 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Oilers at Rangers

NEW YORK -- Goalie Viktor Fasth will start opposite fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist for the first time in his career Sunday when the Edmonton Oilers take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Fasth, a native of Kalix, Sweden, will start for the second straight game and third time in the past four. He made 29 saves in a 3-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Fasth has never faced the Rangers in his career.

"We thought he was real solid [Friday] and he's feeling really good about his game," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said Sunday, according to the Oilers website. "We were feeling good about his game and thought it was important to let him roll with it."

Lundqvist got Saturday off at Air Canada Centre, when Cam Talbot played in a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was not happy with the defensive performance in front of Talbot against the Maple Leafs. He was particularly disappointed that the forwards did not get in shooting lanes, a problem Vigneault said has persisted for the past couple of games.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.05.2014 / 6:49 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Over the Boards blog

Red Wings' Babcock hopes Jurco scratch pays off

NEW YORK – Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he's not sure he should have scratched Tomas Jurco on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, but if it produces the result he thinks he can produce, the questionable move will pay dividends.

Jurco has no goals and two assists in 12 games. He had eight goals and 15 points in 36 games last season.

Jurco was robbed by Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson at 6:11 of the third period Tuesday. He went in on a 2-on-1 with Darren Helm and got off a hard, quick wrist shot that Anderson stopped with a rising stacked pad save. Detroit lost 3-1.

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.05.2014 / 6:33 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Red Wings at Rangers

NEW YORK -- Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary will make his season debut Wednesday against the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA, SN1). It's his first game since Jan. 28.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he's putting Cleary in the lineup because he's there to be a leader and the Red Wings need one after the way Babcock felt they played in a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, when they were outshot 16-2 in the first period.

"I just think that [Tuesday] night we weren't prepared, we didn't play hard enough," Babcock said. "It was un-Red Wing like. To me, that start is unacceptable, and a big part of what Dan Cleary is supposed to provide here is leadership and helping young guys be better. I'm sure he can do that."

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Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday