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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 9:46 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Lowest-ranked invitee Middleton has high aspirations

TORONTO -- Defenseman Jacob Middleton of the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League has nothing to lose and everything to gain as a participant at the 2014 NHL Scouting Combine.

Middleton is No. 172 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia next month. Despite being the lowest-rated player of the 119 prospects invited to the Combine this week, his spirits are at an all-time high.

"Knowing where I stand in the rankings, this gives me an opportunity to talk to teams and have them get to know me, because from the sounds of it a couple teams wanted to meet with me, which is an honor," Middleton told NHL.com. "To get this opportunity is exciting and I'm going to make the most of it."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 9:34 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Indiana Ice discuss thrill of victory, agony of dispersal

TORONTO -- It was a bittersweet ending for defensemen Joshua Jacobs and Ryan Mantha of the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League this season.

Three days after helping lead the organization to its second Clark Cup championship in 10 seasons after beating the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL championship series, the league completed a dispersal draft of those players that were on Indiana's season-ending roster and affiliate list.

"It was very strange," Jacobs said. "A lot of guys were heading to college but some of the younger guys were staying and needed more time, but we celebrated like it was our last hurrah. Seeing the players getting drafted was kind of bittersweet, but it was also a good thing for them and they'll get a new insight into next year and more options, more intelligence from other coaches."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 9:22 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Wheat Kings' Hawryluk eager to prove full recovery

TORONTO -- Brandon Wheat Kings center Jayce Hawryluk is looking forward to impressing NHL scouts and general managers during the fitness portion of the NHL Scouting Combine at Toronto International Centre on Saturday.

For Hawryluk, taking part in the most grueling portion of the Combine is something he is relishing. That wasn't the case two months ago, when after leading the Wheat Kings to a 5-4 victory against the Regina Pats in Game 3 of their best-of-7 first-round Western Hockey League playoff series, Hawryluk was hospitalized after collapsing in the locker room from dehydration.

Hawryluk told NHL.com on Thursday that NHL personnel have questioned what happened that night, moments after he had been named the game's first star after scoring three goals and adding an assist. He has assured all who have asked that he is fully healthy and plans to prove that Saturday.

"I'm better than ever," Hawryluk said. "Everything is fine. I went through tests and it's all good. It was a scary situation with the dehydration. The doctors told me it was overexertion and dehydration, which caused my light-headedness. There was no heart problem and all my medical reports are good."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.28.2014 / 4:48 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Fabbri uses Memorial Cup loss as motivation

TORONTO -- It wasn't the finish Guelph Storm center Robert Fabbri envisioned in the Memorial Cup championship game in London, Ontario, on Sunday.

Still, despite a 6-3 loss against the Edmonton Oil Kings on the final day of the Canadian Hockey League season, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound left-hand shot has plenty to get excited about now that the 2014 NHL Draft is less than a month away.

Fabbri, No. 21 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, finished the season with 45 goals and 87 points in 58 games in his second season in the Ontario Hockey League.

"You can't really define a season off one game, although it was the Memorial Cup and we worked really hard for that opportunity; we just didn't get the outcome we wanted," Fabbri said.

"Winning the OHL championship was one of our goals and one of the steps we needed to take to get to the Memorial Cup. Accomplishing that and the way we did was great. Not too many players can say they won an OHL championship."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.28.2014 / 11:10 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Wheat Kings' Quenneville set to impress at Combine

TORONTO -- Wonder what the topic of discussion was when Brandon Wheat Kings center John Quenneville visited the interview room of the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday here at the NHL Scouting Combine?

Quenneville, a second cousin to Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and nephew (through marriage) of Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, had 25 goals and 58 points in 61 Western Hockey League games this season. He is No. 23 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.

He told NHL.com that the meeting with the Blackhawks was "interesting."

Perhaps Quenneville offered some words of encouragement for the Blackhawks staff in attendance. Chicago trails its Western Conference Final series against the Los Angeles Kings 3-1. Game 5 is Wednesday at United Center in Chicago (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"Los Angeles is playing great hockey, but there are so many good players on Chicago; I still think they can make a series of it so long as they dig deep," he said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.28.2014 / 9:30 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the 2014 NHL Combine

Oshawa forward Smith a prospect on the rise in 2014

TORONTO -- Oshawa Generals right wing Hunter Smith is hoping the success he had on the baseball diamond someday carries over to the ice.

"I grew up playing baseball and was a catcher," Smith told NHL.com. "I was a big home-run hitter, always hitting in the [No.] three or [No.] four hole."

Smith, born in Windsor, Ontario, was a catcher with the Windsor South Canadians baseball program for a few years before he decided to make hockey his full-time ambition.

"I think I loved baseball so much because we always won," he said. "One year we went 53-1, so we were always a championship-winning team, and it was just a lot of fun. There was no better feeling than trotting the bases. But baseball has been over with now for me for about four or five years."

Smith, a 6-foot-6, 208-pound forward, had the biggest jump on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2014 NHL Draft, landing at No. 39 after being ranked No. 140 in the midterm release in January.

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Posted On Sunday, 05.25.2014 / 1:35 PM

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

Miller expected back in Rangers lineup for Game 4

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers left wing J.T. Miller is expected to make his debut in the Eastern Conference Final series against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, NBCSN).

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday that he intends to have Miller in the lineup.

Miller, who has appeared in three games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and has two assists and a plus-3 rating, will likely join center Brian Boyle and right wing Derek Dorsett on the fourth line.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.21.2014 / 4:00 PM

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

Rangers backup Talbot marveling over Lundqvist

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot couldn't name something specific that has changed in teammate Henrik Lundqvist since the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Well, maybe one thing.

"He has risen to a new level since Game 5 of the Pittsburgh Penguins series," Talbot said with a grin.

Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round was the first of what has become five straight victories for the Rangers, during which Lundqvist has allowed six goals. He is 10-6 with a 1.93 goals-against average and NHL-leading .934 save percentage in 16 postseason games.

Game 3 against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final is Thursday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.

"He's the same focused and intense guy in the dressing room; I couldn't pinpoint one thing that he's changed drastically about his game or attitude, other than the fact that he may be more focused when the game is on the line," Talbot said of Lundqvist. "But I think everyone has taken their game to the next level in the playoffs, as has [Lundqvist]."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.21.2014 / 2:56 PM

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

Rangers forward Brassard practices, still day-to-day

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers center Derick Brassard remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will likely be a game-time decision against the Montreal Canadiens for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, NBCSN).

The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.

Brassard, who missed Game 2 at Bell Centre in Montreal with an injury sustained in the first period of Game 1, was on the ice for the first time in five days on Wednesday practicing with his teammates at MSG. He skated on a line with Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller, who was filling in for usual partner Benoit Pouliot (rest).

"Nothing has changed with Derick, he's day-to-day," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.21.2014 / 11:06 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2014 NHL Draft blog

Pawloski helps Indiana Ice to Clark Cup championship

The Indiana Ice celebrated their second Clark Cup championship of the United States Hockey League on Tuesday following a 3-2 victory in Game 5 against the Waterloo Black Hawks before 3,500 at Young Arena in Waterloo, Iowa.

Alex Talcott, who is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, and Washington Capitals prospect Brian Pinho scored goals in the third period when Indiana rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the best-of-5 series. The Ice won their first league title since 2008-09. Waterloo was seeking its first championship since the 2003-04 campaign.

Indiana goalie Jason Pawloski, who was No. 34 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of the top North American goalies eligible for the 2014 draft but failed to make the final list in April, made 33 saves to notch his eighth win of the playoffs. He finished with a 1.80 goals-against average and .928 save percentage on the way to being named most valuable player of the 2014 Clark Cup Playoffs.

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Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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