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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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Posted On Friday, 05.16.2014 / 10:40 AM

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

Top 2014 prospects highlight USHL All-Star teams

Top 2014 NHL Draft prospects Brandon Montour of the Waterloo Black Hawks, Jacob Randolph of the Omaha Lancers and Matheson Iacopelli of the Muskegon Lumberjacks were recognized Thursday as First Team All-Stars by the United States Hockey League.

The USHL All-Star Teams were determined by a vote of league coaches and general managers. Seven different teams were represented on the First and Second All-Star teams.

Montour, No. 92 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for this year's draft, was named the USHL player of the year and best defenseman for 2013-14. He finished ninth in scoring with 62 points (14 goals, 48 assists). Montour put together an 18-game point streak, a span that saw him total four goals and 27 points as Waterloo went 16-1-1. The University of Massachusetts recruit ranked sixth in the league with a plus-35 rating.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.14.2014 / 1:44 PM

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

Ekblad, Nedeljkovic named OHL First Team All-Stars

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic of the Plymouth Whalers, two top prospects from North America eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, were recognized as First Team All-Stars by the Ontario Hockey League on Wednesday.

The OHL All-Star teams were selected by the league's general managers.

Ekblad, who was named the defenseman of the year in the OHL after finishing with career highs in goals (23), assists (30), power-play goals (16), points (53) and penalty minutes (91) in his third season, is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters. He is projected by many scouts to be the first defenseman off the draft board in the first round on June 27 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.13.2014 / 3:10 PM

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

Waterloo defenseman Montour wins top USHL player

Waterloo Black Hawks defenseman Brandon Montour on Tuesday was named the top defenseman and player of the year in the United States Hockey League.

Montour, No. 92 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American players eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, becomes just the third defenseman in USHL history to be named the league's Player of the Year.

"What Brandon did on both ends of the ice this season was phenomenal and a big part of the magical year for the Waterloo Black Hawks," said USHL president and commissioner Skip Prince. "He may have come into the USHL a little under the radar, but he made everyone take notice this season with his tremendous abilities and talent. Congratulations to him on this dual honor and for standing out in a league full of stars."

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Posted On Monday, 05.12.2014 / 12:43 AM

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

Crosby: Penguins need better start in Game 7

NEW YORK -- Now would seem to be the perfect time for Sidney Crosby to break out of his offensive slump if he hopes to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 2014 playoffs haven't come easy for Crosby, who has one goal and nine points and is minus-3 in 12 games. He has one goal and two assists against the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference Second Round series, which is headed for Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

In a 3-1 loss against the Rangers in Game 6 on Sunday, Crosby was penalized for cross-checking an opponent at the end of the second period. It appeared to be a penalty taken out of frustration against Dominic Moore, who was down on his hands and knees when Crosby drove his stick into the New York center's back.

It's something Crosby knows cannot happen in the series finale. It's also why Penguins owner Mario Lemieux paid a little visit to Crosby after the game to provide some support, counseling and, perhaps, advice inside the visiting room at Madison Square Garden.

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