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Posted On Wednesday, 05.06.2015 / 2:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2015 NHL Draft blog

Erie's McDavid sets sights on OHL championship

What is the formula to stopping Erie Otters captain Connor McDavid in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs?

Oshawa Generals coach D.J. Smith hopes to that out beginning Friday when the Generals play the Otters in Game 1 of the Ontario Hockey League best-of-7 championship series in Oshawa.

McDavid, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, had eight goals and 19 points in a six-game series victory against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the conference final last week. He leads all playoff performers in the Canadian Hockey League with 19 goals and 42 points and is averaging 2.80 points per game in 15 postseason games. McDavid has at least one point in all 15 playoff games, the longest streak in the OHL since Taylor Hall had points in 16 straight games for the Windsor Spitfires in the 2010 playoffs.

That 2010 Windsor team with Hall, who went on to be taken by the Edmonton Oilers with the first pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, had Smith as an associate coach.

Posted On Sunday, 05.03.2015 / 4:02 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2015 NHL Draft blog

Prospect Matthews caps big year with USA Hockey

Just when 17-year-old Auston Matthews thought his season couldn't get any better, he scored a goal for the United States Men's National Team in an exhibition game in late April at the 2015 IIHF Men's World Championship in Vienna, Austria.

It was a fitting way for Matthews to cap off an incredible 2014-15 season in which he established two records with the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program (USNTDP), earned a fifth-place finish for the U.S. at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, and won a gold medal as an alternate captain for his country at the 2015 IIHF U-18 World Championship.

"Initially I was in awe; I was excited to play at that stage," Matthews said. "When I got there it was everything I could have imagined playing with NHL players like Trevor Lewis and Matt Hendricks and guys like that who are really established in the NHL. It was really cool and an honor to be around those guys. They were all super nice and very welcoming."

Posted On Friday, 05.01.2015 / 4:09 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers-Capitals series blog

Trotz has Capitals playing on an even keel

NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals have proven to be a resilient bunch during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The core of this team, that includes captain Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom, seems content that getting the job done in even the most tense situation is not a big deal, a sign that Washington could be playing with more maturity and a renewed confidence.

The Capitals will look to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series when they play Game 2 against the New York Rangers on Saturday at Madison Square Garden (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"It goes back to first game of our first-round series [against the New York Islanders]," Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said. "We lost that game and could have gotten down, but we wanted to bounce back and wanted to come out with the win. I thought we had a good response against the Rangers in the first game of this series when they tied the game late in the third, and we still had enough left to win it."

Posted On Friday, 05.01.2015 / 10:18 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers-Capitals series blog

Ovechkin dominant for Capitals in Game 1

NEW YORK -- There are times that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is performing like a player possessed.

Ovechkin certainly appeared in that state of mind during a 2-1 victory against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).

His first-period goal against Henrik Lundqvist was majestic. His assist to right wing Joel Ward for the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining in the third period was highlight reel-worthy.

"He made an unbelievable pass across his body; he was almost behind the net," Ward said after the game.

Posted On Thursday, 04.30.2015 / 2:37 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers-Capitals series blog

Capitals want to continue physical game vs. Rangers

NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals would like nothing more than to continue their hit parade against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

In a physically draining first round, the Capitals and New York Islanders combined for 630 hits. Washington, which won the best-of-7 series 4-3, is first among the eight remaining teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 313 hits.

For the Capitals to make life difficult for the quick, agile Rangers forwards, they will have to lower the boom on more than one occasion between the blue lines. Coach Barry Trotz said that Washington needs to play to its identity, and that identity is having a group that is difficult to play against.

"I think we're playing more heavy hockey than in the past, but the Islanders came hard at us, and it was a hard-hitting series," Capitals forward Tom Wilson said. "I'm sure if the Rangers were playing the Islanders, it would have been a hard-hitting series. Each series has a different identity, but that's playoff hockey. Guys are finishing checks and leaving everything on the ice. I'm sure this will be a hard-hitting series."

Posted On Thursday, 04.30.2015 / 2:10 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers-Capitals series blog

Capitals focused on containing Rangers' speed

NEW YORK -- There's no secret what the Washington Capitals need to do from the outset in Game 1 against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The players realize one of the biggest challenges they face against the Rangers is devising a strategy to neutralize or slow their speed through the neutral zone.

However, that's easier said than done.

"There's no secret they have guys who can skate so we have to make sure we're getting in on the forecheck and clogging it up," Capitals forward Tom Wilson said. "We need to stop them as quick as possible. We need clean exits out of our end and hopefully can limit their speed. We also need to play that heavy game. It's going to be a great series."

Posted On Friday, 04.24.2015 / 1:37 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers-Penguins series blog

Penguins again missing Pouliot, Bennett for Game 5

NEW YORK -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Derrick Pouliot and forward Beau Bennett again have been ruled out against the New York Rangers for Game 5 of the their Eastern Conference First Round series at Madison Square Garden on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, MSG).

The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.

Pouliot, who sustained an undisclosed injury in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators on April 7, will miss his sixth straight game. Bennett, who sustained an upper-body injury in a 4-3 victory in Game 2 of the series, will miss his third straight game. Each participated in the morning skate at Madison Square Garden, and Pouliot even took a few shifts on the second power-play unit.

"There is no change in the lineup," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "The injured players on our roster aren't available, so it's that type of situation right now with our team. I'm quite comfortable looking at the last game (a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 4) that we just need to repeat that type of game."

Posted On Thursday, 04.23.2015 / 2:34 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers-Penguins series blog

Rangers' Klein '50/50' for Game 5 vs. Penguins

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein, who has been out of the lineup while recovering from a broken left arm sustained last month, skated prior to practice Thursday and remains questionable for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, MSG).

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Klein, defenseman Keith Yandle and forward Mats Zuccarello took maintenance days Thursday. He said he expects Yandle and Zuccarello to be in the lineup Friday; Klein he wasn't as sure about.

"Klein was still a little sore from practice [Wednesday] so we'll see how he reacts and responds at the morning skate [Friday]," Vigneault said.

Posted On Wednesday, 04.22.2015 / 2:55 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2015 NHL Draft blog

McDavid to face Oilers pick Nurse in OHL playoffs

There's a good chance Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse will be playing against a future NHL teammate in Erie Otters center Connor McDavid when the teams meet for Game 1 of the Ontario Hockey League Western Conference Final at Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday.

Nurse, selected in the first round (No. 7) of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, played with McDavid, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, in a gold medal-winning performance for Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The Oilers hold the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and general manager Craig MacTavish has said there was zero chance he'd even consider trading it. On Tuesday, Hockey Hall of Fame member Wayne Gretzky told the Edmonton Journal that McDavid is the best player about to enter the NHL in the past 30 years.

Posted On Tuesday, 04.21.2015 / 1:42 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2015 NHL Draft blog

Strome named OHL sportsmanlike player of the year

Erie Otters center Dylan Strome, No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, has been awarded the William Hanley Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player of the year in the Ontario Hockey League.

Strome not only led the OHL with 129 points (45 goals, 84 assists) in 68 games, but his 32 penalty minutes were the sixth lowest among the top 20 scorers. He had just four penalty minutes in his last 32 games of the regular season.

"This is a major honor," Stome said in a statement. "You look at the guys who have won this award in the past and it's pretty cool to be recognized alongside them. I'm extremely proud to be recognized as most sportsmanlike for this league."

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— Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Brandon Saad, who was traded by Chicago to the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason