NHL Network analyst Craig Button, like most hockey fans, watched with great interest the results of the 2012 NHL Draft Lottery.
With the win, the Edmonton Oilers earned the right to pick No. 1. And in Button's opinion, the choice is clear -- Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov, the top-rated North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking.
"[Murray is] a real steady, strong defenseman," said Button. "Maybe not flashy, but incredibly effective. He's a leader, he's a player that will play 15 years in the League and he will help a team win."
"We know they've taken forwards a lot," said Button, "but with Filip Forsberg, arguably he's in the same class as Nail Yakupov. Too big, too skilled, too determined. I believe he adds a tremendous amount to the Islanders' group."
With the fifth pick, Button envisions the Toronto Maple Leafs selecting Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk. The center missed most of the season with a knee injury, but that will be a thing of the past when next season starts.
"He's a player that reminds me of Ron Francis," said Button. "And for a team in dire need of centermen, Alex Galchenyuk fits the bill."
Boston forward Nathan Horton will not make a dramatic comeback in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins announced Wednesday that Horton will miss the entire postseason as he deals with a concussion suffered Jan. 22.
Horton has not played since that game against the Flyers and has missed 36 games.
He played in a career-low 46 games this season and registered 32 points and 54 penalty minutes.
During last year's Stanley Cup Playoff run, he tallied three game-winning goals, including the winners in the Game 7 victories against Montreal on April 27, 2011 and Tampa Bay on May 27, 2011. He finished the postseason appearing in 21 of the team's 25 playoff games with eight goals, nine assists and 35 penalty minutes. He missed the final four games of the Stanley Cup Final due to a severe concussion sustained in Game 3.
Courtesy: Sports Illustrated (Click image to enlarge)
After a sparkling regular season that may earn him a Vezina Trophy, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist earned a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.
The last Ranger to appear on the magazine's cover was Wayne Gretzky on April 26, 1999, in recognition of his retirement from the NHL.
Lundqvist and the Rangers will start their postseason Thursday night (7 ET, NHLN) against the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Lundqvist set career-highs in wins (39) goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.930) this season.
Lundqvist's cover is one of two Sports Illustrated will issue this week. Golfer Bubba Watson, who won The Masters on Sunday, will appear on the other cover.
A win against Washington on the final day of the regular season, and the New York Rangers would have wound up facing the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Instead, after all the Eastern Conference playoff dust had settled, they found themselves with the Ottawa Senators as their draw -- which means, in part, having to defend against this season's breakout defenseman and possible Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson.
Karlsson led all blueliners in scoring with 78 points and tied Shea Weber for the lead with 19 goals. The 21-year-old Swedish standout didn't score any of those goals against the Rangers, but he picked up five assists as the Senators won three of four in the regular-season series.
Thirty-plus goal scorers Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek will be primary focuses of the Rangers' defensive efforts in this series, but center Brad Richards said they can't lose track of where Karlsson is on the ice.
"He's a big part of their offense, obviously, and it'll be a big focus for us to try to limit his time and space," Richards said during a Monday conference call with the media. "Hopefully we can keep him away from puck as much as we can. He's kind of a rover, he'll jump up in the play, and he's such a great skater he gets back just as quick, so he can take more chances than other d-men can.
"You have to keep your head on a swivel when he has the puck, try to get it out of his hands as quick as we can so he can't be a big part of the offense … start in their end and keep an eye on him down there, don't let him beat you and create those odd-man rushes."
Ottawa won both of its games during the regular season at Madison Square Garden, where the series will get started with Game 1 on Thursday.
"They're a very talented team … we plan on making it difficult on them when we start Thursday," Richards said. "If you give time and space they can score goals. That's probably why they [had success against us]."
The last time the Detroit Red Wings finished as low as third in their division was in 1990-91 -- the season before Nicklas Lidstrom arrived from Sweden to patrol their blue line.
Over the ensuing two decades, Lidstrom and his teammates haven't had much experience being the underdog in a series -- especially not in the first round. But despite completing their 12th consecutive season with over 100 points, there are many who consider the Red Wings just that heading into a series with the Nashville Predators in which their Central Division rivals have home ice.
"We don't mind that at all, being the underdog," Lidstrom said during a media conference call Monday. "Nashville had a real strong regular season and finished ahead of us in points. I think they're the team to be the favorites, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
Starting the series at Bridgestone Arena could prove to be a distinct disadvantage for the Wings if they can't reverse a regular-season trend that saw them post an NHL-high 31 wins at home, but finish a mediocre 17-17-7 on the road.
"Our team defense needs to be better and we need to play better without the puck, especially with the quick forwards Nashville's got," Lidstrom said about how Detroit might reverse its fortunes. "We have to take advantage of our chances offensively, too."
Getting healthy is also a key. The Wings got some key players like Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk back late in the season, but the conditions of veteran Danny Cleary (sore knee) and energy-line player Darren Helm (sprained knee ligament) also bear watching.
"Both Cleary and Helm skated with us today, practiced and stayed out there the whole time," Lidstrom said. "We expect Clear to play in the first game. Helm is almost there. He's getting closer and closer. I think we need a player like Helm, with his speed up front, to play against a very good Nashville team."
After clinching their second Presidents' Trophy in as many seasons, the Canucks will begin their quest for the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Wednesday night when they open their first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings.
Vancouver and L.A. are set to drop the puck in Game 1 at 10:30 ET. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network in the U.S. and CBC in Canada.