2015 NHL Draft
Posted On Friday, 03.09.2012 / 3:31 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hjalmarsson back for Hawks

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews isn't ready to return from his concussion just yet, but the Chicago Blackhawks will get a key member of their team back from a similar injury Friday night at the United Center.

The Hawks will host the New York Rangers and will have defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson back in uniform for the first time in six games after he, too, has battled recent concussion symptoms. In fact, Hjalmarsson has missed 13 of the past 14 games because of his injury, after initially sitting out seven consecutive games because of it, then returning for a game and leaving the lineup again.

Hjalmarsson could be paired with rookie Dylan Olsen and will likely see time on the penalty kill, as well.

"It gives you important minutes," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Chicago's morning skate. "I think [he] defends as good as anybody in our own end. He can kill penalties for us and play important minutes."

Hjalmarsson has scored one goal to go with 11 assists in 55 games thus far, but he's got a plus-six rating and is consistent defensively. He also blocks shots well and returns to the lineup just in time to replace Sami Lepisto -- who is out "indefinitely" after sustaining a left leg injury in a 5-1 loss Tuesday in St. Louis.

The Hawks also picked up puck-moving defenseman Johnny Oduya before the trade deadline expired last month, which gives Quenneville some of that quality depth on the blue line that coaches crave this time of year. Chicago also has 40-year old Sean O'Donnell in its stable of defensemen.

"It's nice to have that predictability that [Hjalmarsson] provides us back there and with the recent addition of Johnny [Oduya] it helps with three solid pairs," Quenneville said. "Getting one more back there really helps us."

Chicago's Marian Hossa didn't participate in the team's morning skate Friday, but Quenneville said he will play against the Rangers. The same wasn't said about injured defenseman Steve Montador, who's been out for 14 straight games with what's believed to be a concussion.

Montador had been skating on his own last week, but hasn't been able to get on the ice this week. Quenneville deemed it a "sideways step or a backwards step" in his recovery process.

The Rangers, who lost 4-1 on Thursday night in Ottawa, didn't hold a morning skate. They played the Senators without forward Brandon Dubinsky, and he still might not be ready to go against Chicago.

If not, look for former Blackhawks enforcer John Scott -- who was dealt to New York on trade deadline day for a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft -- to fill a spot on the fourth line. Ray Emery will get the start in net for the Hawks, while Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start for New York.

Here is a look at how the Rangers and Blackhawks might lineup on Friday night:

Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - John Scott

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Marc Staal - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bollig

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Dylan Olsen

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
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Posted On Thursday, 03.08.2012 / 2:05 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Good sign for Toews, who skates prior to practice

CHICAGO -- He'll miss another game when the New York Rangers come to town on Friday, but Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews took a signifcant step on Thursday toward returning to the ice.

Toews, who's been out for eight games with an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, skated on his own for the first time on Thursday since his injury was revealed after a Feb. 19 game against the St. Louis Blues.

"He had a good skate today," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was very exciting for us to see him back out here. He's encouraged as well, so it was a really good day."

Toews took the ice before the Hawks' practice, working out with strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman, and felt OK afterward.

"He felt good," Quenneville said. "That's part of it, as well. It was a big first step seeing him out here."

The Hawks aren't ready to put a more definitive timetable on Toews' return other than "day-to-day," but just seeing him back on the ice was encouraging.

"After that, we'll certainly get a [better] idea to when he's closer," Quenneville said. "He's progressing. It was nice to see him."

Toews' teammates also felt encouraged.

"He looked pretty good," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It was good to see his face all red and sweating coming off the ice, like he'd just been working hard. Hadn't seen that in a while, so it was nice to see."

Fellow defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson also liked what he saw from the team's top-line center and emotional leader.

"It's a step in the right direction, for sure," he said. "I think he likes being out there, too, instead of just being in the gym doing whatever he's doing. It's probably nice just to go out on the ice again."

If anybody knows the feeling, it's Hjalmarsson -- who's "hopeful" to return against the Rangers from his own upper-body injury believed to stem from a concussion. Hjalmarsson has missed 13 of the past 14 games, including the last six in a row after returning for just one game from a seven-game absence and then leaving the lineup again.

Hjalmarsson said conditioning becomes a big part of the equation toward the tail end of the recovery process. Thus, he knows what kind of skating work Toews has ahead of him before he's cleared to return for games.

"It's pretty amazing how long it takes to get back in shape and how fast it goes away," Hjalmarsson said. "It usually takes awhile to get back into good shape."

In other Hawks-related injury news, fourth-line center Jamal Mayers didn't skate because of what Quenneville called a "maintenance day," while defensemen Sami Lepisto and Steve Montador also didn't participate.

According to Quenneville, Lepisto will be out "indefinitely" with a lower-body injury that occurred in the second period of Chicago's last game. St. Louis forward David Perron fell on his left leg and he had trouble putting weight on the leg as he left the ice gingerly.

Montador is also out with an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, but has been skating on his own recently.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 3:27 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected Blackhawks-Red Wings lineups

DETROIT -- The starpower will be noticeably down when the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks take the ice on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, but that didn't stop their last game from being any less exciting.

The Hawks won the last meeting 3-2 on Feb. 21 in Chicago in a game that didn't feature injured star centers Jonathan Toews or Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk. Neither of those two will play on Sunday either, plus the Red Wings will also be missing legendary captain Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) on the blue line.

"There's so many weapons they have," Quennville said.  "Even though they're missing some key pieces, they're still very effective."

The Hawks have had some success against the Wings the past couple years, including a 2-0-2 mark in the first four matchups this season. That includes that one-goal victory in their last game, in which Chicago got goals from rookies Marcus Kruger and Jimmy Hayes -- two of five rookies who will suit up for Sunday's tilt because of injuries to two defensemen and ineffectiveness by forward Michael Frolik.

Having so many rookies, a couple of whom will be playing their first game at Joe Louis Arena, it shouldn't be hard for the Hawks to get up for the game. The Red Wings, however, have a similar situation because of their own rash of injuries.

"I know it's easy to get excited when you're playing this team," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said prior to the game on Sunday. "We've got to do a lot of things right to be in the game or on top at the end of it. We got a real big win [against] them last time. It was an emotional game, getting back home and it was important for the standings ... and we're going to have to be the same type of team today."

Here's a look at how Chicago and Detroit will likely lineup on Sunday afternoon:


Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bollig

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Dylan Olsen - Sami Lepisto

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford


Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Danny Cleary - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi/Johan Franzen
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Johan Franzen/Chris Conner
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton-Jan Mursak

Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
Brendan Smith - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard
Joey MacDonald

Note: Bertuzzi will be a gametime decision with a groin issue, which
he will test out during pre-game warmups. If he doesn't play, Chris
Conner will draw into the lineup, likely on the third line with
Franzen moving up to the second forward unit.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 5:43 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Chicago's Toews ruled out for at least two more games

DETROIT -- There seemed to be a slim glimmer of hope from Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Thursday regarding injured star Jonathan Toews, who's out with an upper-body injury that's believed to be a concussion.

Quenneville replied, "hopeful," earlier in the week when asked then whether Toews might join the Hawks at some point during their current three-game road trip -- which began Friday night in Ottawa with a big win and continues Sunday in Detroit before concluding Tuesday night in St. Louis.

Jonathan Toews
Center - CHI
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 57
SOG: 185 | +/-: 17
On Saturday in Detroit, Quenneville said Toews will not make it on the trip at all, which means he'll miss at least two more games -- Sunday against the Red Wings and Tuesday against the Blues -- before his status is re-evaluated for Friday's home game against the New York Rangers.

"No change," Quenneville said of Toews' day-to-day status. "Still progressing, but no change. He's not going to be on the trip."

Quenneville was also asked if he's concerned the Toews' injury might become more long-term.

"We're saying day-to-day and we're seeing progress," Quenneville said.  "So, we're kind of optimistic on the bright side that he's going to be back."

Also out for Sunday's game with what's believed to be concussion-related issues is defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who participated in Saturday's practice.

Hjalmarsson appears to be close to returning to action, after missing seven games and possibly returning too quickly.

Sunday's game will be the fifth he's missed in a row and 12th in the past 13 games, so getting his conditioning back up might be one of the last hurdles to clear.

"He's had a couple conditioning skates here and he's really progressing," Quenneville said. "He's real close."

Hjalmarsson is a possibility to suit up on Tuesday in St. Louis, but he's remains day-to-day in the eyes of the Hawks.
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Posted On Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 5:35 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Datsyuk remains on track in knee rehab

DETROIT -- Pavel Datsyuk has yet to begin skating on his own after having arthroscopic knee surgery nearly two weeks ago, but he continues to make progress rehabbing off ice and feels like he's still on track to return with the two- to three-week timeline.

Datsyuk is targeting Detroit's road trip that will start on March 10 in Nashville before heading West to play the three California-based teams for his return to action. He might not be ready at the start of the trip, but plans to be on the team plane when it leaves.

"That's what we're looking [at], but for sure I take sun cream for California trip," Datysuk said, smiling. "Hoping to practice with team before that trip. Definitely I want to go to California. I go to Hollywood."

How does the knee feel now?

"Much better every day, my movement, I can do bike, I do everything almost," Datsyuk said. "But I need time. I wish I had some magic pills.''

He also doesn't know exactly when he'll get back on the ice to start skating and test it out on his own.

"Nothing planned," he said. "[Sunday] we're thinking about."
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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wings' youngsters ready for increased role

DETROIT -- The third defense pairing for the Detroit Red Wings will be one to keep an eye on Friday at Joe Louis Arena -- it'll be 25-year old Jakub Kindl and 23-year old rookie Brendan Smith.

It will be Kindl's 100th NHL game and Smith's first regular-season home game, so both will have milestones of sorts to use for motivation.

"It's a dream (come) true," said Kindl, who has 1 goal and 11 assists in 48 games this season. "Who'd have thought I could play even 100 games in the NHL? It's nice and hopefully I can put up a few more."

He's getting the chance to string a few together again after falling out of favor with Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland for not holding onto the puck long enough and not looking eager to take on physical contact in order to make plays.

After Holland for 26-year old Kyle Quincey -- a former Red Wings defense prospect before leaving in 2008 as a waiver claim -- it looked like neither Smith nor Kindl would get significant minutes again this season.

Then a rash of injuries to Detroit's blue line a week ago changed those plans. Jonathan Ericsson broke his wrist, Nicklas Lidstrom suffered an ankle injury and Quincey injured his groin. That opened the door for Kindl to return to the lineup and Smith to earn a call-up from AHL Grand Rapids.

Quincey will return to the lineup Friday, but Babcock will keep his young pair together for a second straight game.

"It's crazy," Kindl said. "You never know when you're going to be out there, but some things you can't control. You just have to always be ready and do everything you can. Whenever you have the chance, you've just got to be ready."

Smith said he's felt ready to play in the NHL for a while, and he'll get the chance now to see if he's right.

"I think we went from eight 'D' to four 'D' in, like, 23 hours," said Smith. "It's an opportunity for (me), and I'm pretty excited about it. I'm just going to try to not waste this opportunity and get out there and play my best. These are the things I've been told to try to manage."

He's gotten a good amount of practice at it, too, just by monitoring the defense situation in Detroit while playing in Grand Rapids.

"The biggest thing is to not let all of the news get to your head," Smith said. "When you get the call, play well. When you're down (in the AHL), play well. When you're a professional player, it's just about playing well and being consistent. It doesn't matter if you're up or down. These are the things I've got to do."

He also had to play it as cool as possible when Holland picked up Quincey and not let it send an unintended message about his play or development path.

"Obviously, for myself, I was a little shocked," Smith said. "I was like, 'Wow.' But I called my dad and my agent, and they're just like, 'Hey, it's all the master plan. You know that you're a good player. Don't let that stuff get into your head.' Because if it does get into your head, then you're not playing your best, you're playing to what you think is going on. You're distracted. You never want to be like that."

It helped hearing comments from Holland and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock about how well he was developing and likely would have a role in the NHL next season. He also was told that Holland declined a couple of trade offers that had his name in them.

"A few people have told me there were a few offers, and (Holland and Babcock) told me I'm the future (plans), and I'll be around for a while ... which is awesome to hear," Smith said. "For Kenny to tell me I'm the future of the Red Wings, it's pretty cool. I'm just going to try to play my best and try to live up to that."

Kindl knows the feeling well, as Detroit's first round pick (No. 19) in the 2005 Entry Draft. He's been trying to find a regular spot in the top-six defense corps for the last couple of seasons and continues to come across speed bumps.

One thing he's learned along the way: Don't try to do too much to get noticed, just do what's necessary each game. He'll probably share that wisdom with Smith prior to Friday's game, which the rookie anticipates bringing a healthy dose of nerves beforehand.

"We're young guys," Kindl said. "We've just got to keep it simple. Smitty is a good player. He can skate and carry the puck. We've just got to talk to each other and help each other out and play simple."
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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 2:13 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Likely lineups for Wild, Red Wings

DETROIT -- The Minnesota Wild, coming off a tough shootout loss in Montreal on Thursday, didn't skate Friday morning ahead of their game against the Red Wings on Friday night.

The Red Wings did have a morning skate, but it didn't include captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who will miss Friday's game as well as Sunday's to rest his sore ankle.

Detroit went back ahead of the St. Louis Blues for the top spot in the Central Division and second place in the Western Conference when the Blues lost to Vancouver on Thursday -- both teams have 87 points, but the Wings have played one fewer game -- while Minnesota starts the day 12th in the conference, five points behind eight-place Dallas.

The Wild will be without goalie Niklas Backstrom, who injured his leg early in Thursday's loss. Minnesota recalled Matt Hackett from AHL Houston to be the backup against Detroit, while Josh Harding will get the start.

Here is what the lineups for both teams likely will look like when they take the ice at Joe Louis Arena:

Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Palmieri
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Stephane Veilleux - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer
Matt Kassian - Darroll Powe - Nick Johnson

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Nate Prosser - Kurtis Foster
Justin Falk - Tom Gilbert

Josh Harding will start in goal, with Matt Hackett serving as the backup.

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Danny Cleary - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Johan Franzen
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton - Jan Mursak

Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
Brendan Smith - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard will start in goal, with Joey MacDonald the backup.
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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 1:44 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Quincey back in for Wings

DETROIT -- While the Detroit Red Wings won't have Nicklas Lidstrom for at least two more games, they will get one veteran defenseman back in the lineup.

Kyle Quincey, who sat out Tuesday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a sore groin, said after the team's morning skate Friday that he feels good enough to play against Minnesota.  That prompted the Wings to send defenseman Doug Janik back to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League on Friday afternoon.

Quincey will play with Ian White. Nicklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart will be another pairing, while rookie Brendan Smith and 25-year old Jakub Kindl – playing his 100th NHL game -- will form Detroit's third defense pair.
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Posted On Friday, 03.02.2012 / 1:37 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wings' Lidstrom to sit out weekend games

DETROIT -- Nicklas Lidstrom was hoping he could get back on the ice by now, at least to test out his sore ankle, which has a deep bone bruise after getting hit with a slap shot a week ago.

Instead, the 41-year old Detroit Red Wings defenseman and captain, who sat out Tuesday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, will miss Friday's game against the Minnesota Wild and Sunday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, and then he and the team will re-evaluate the ankle on Monday.

"I've had it X-rayed twice, so we'll see what they want me to do on Monday," said Lidstrom, who has missed a total of 38 games out of a possible 1,850 regular season and playoff games in his NHL career. "Right now just ... I can ride the bike. Not pushing off with my toe, but I can still ride the bike and work out that way."

The longest period of time Lidstrom has missed is six games in 2007-08, when he had a knee sprain. Is he concerned this current injury might require a longer time to heal, especially with just 18 games left in the regular season?

"A little bit, especially when it's been almost a week now and it's still sore," Lidstrom said after Detroit's morning skate Friday. "I was hoping it was going to be a couple of days and I'd miss one game and be back at it, but this is lingering longer than I was hoping for."

Lidstrom was struck on the outside of the ankle by a slap shot during a 4-3 home loss Feb. 25 to the Colorado Avalanche. A week prior, Lidstrom was struck on the inside of the same foot by a Mike Fisher wrist shot early in the third period of Detroit's game against the Nashville Predators.

He played through the Fisher shot, which caused some soreness but wasn't as severe. Lidstrom even felt strong enough to assist on the game-winning goal.

"I got hit a few weeks ago on the inside," Lidstrom said. "That was different. It wasn't as bad. It wasn't as sore as this one is. (This one) just hit me right in that spot where, even though the skate is protected, it's still going to hurt ... and I think it hit right in that spot."

The good news for Lidstrom is the swelling has subsided from a few days ago and he can get his foot in his skate thanks to some alterations made to it. The problem is when he ties it tight enough to skate.

"It was just too sore once I tied the skate, too sore to push off," said Lidstrom, who has 10 goals, 21 and a plus-25 rating in 62 games. "When you're skating, you kind of push off with your toes and I just couldn't push off. That's the problem with it."

Lidstrom isn't used to missing games, and with the uncertainty surrounding his current ailment, he's getting frustrated.

"I don't like it, really," said Lidstrom, whose skate has already been fitted with a protective outer shell to absorb impact whenever he is able to return. "I'd rather be on the ice or on the bench being part of the game. It's a lot harder sitting on the side and watching rather than being part of the game."

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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 3:40 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Tough times have shaken Crawford seeking answers

CHICAGO -- Veteran Ray Emery will get the start for the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators and it looks like he has the inside track on the starting job over Corey Crawford for the remaining 17 games of the regular season.

Crawford was pulled from his second straight start on Wednesday after just one period, which was his seventh time being pulled this season. Needless to say, the second-year goalie who was so impressive and consistent a year ago is struggling to locate where his game and confidence went.

"It's a tough time right now, where I can't even finish a game," Crawford said on Thursday after a practice at the United Center. "I battled hard in practice today and I just got to keep working hard and stay focused. I don't want it to get worse than it is right now."

Crawford, who has a 2.94 goals-against average and .900 save percentage, is beating himself up over his turbulent season. The last two tough starts in particular are especially weighing on his mind, after being pulled after the first period in each one.

"I've never been through this since I started playing goalie," Crawford said. "I've gone on streaks where they're a little bit tougher, but to be up and down this drastically … I'm trying to find answers. Maybe I'm thinking too much. It's just not acceptable. I've got to be better for us. We're fighting for a playoff spot and I've got to find a way to make big saves. It doesn't matter the situation."

Crawford continues to work with Blackhawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite, but Quenneville had his own words of encouragement for the 27-year old who signed a three-year contract extension last summer.

"We'll work at it in practice, whether it's technical adjustments ... but mentally, physically, you know, fight through it," Quenneville said of Crawford's shaken confidence. "Don't give in to it. Look forward and find the confidence you had before. It can be restored quickly and I think that's what we're up to."

Quenneville said opposing teams studied Crawford's tendencies over the past year and likely know them better this year than a year ago -- when Crawford ascended to the starting position as a rookie and played strong.

"He's had good stretches this year," Quenneville said. "Maybe we're comparing him to that standard he had last year, when he was real good for us and instrumental in getting us in the playoffs. He had a real good playoffs, as well. He was relied upon at a critical time of the year and delivered and that was his rookie year. Maybe the expectations and standards were even elevated up off of those levels."

Maybe it's now time for Crawford to readjust to opposing teams by identifying and removing those tendencies they might've picked up. It's all just part of the continual advance-scouting battle that happens in all professional sports, hockey included.

"Every goalie ... the players might [become] a little bit familiar," Quenneville said. "They go through their routines and they're starting to know him, like it goes the other way around. It's part of the learning curve and I know Corey's like a student with how he approaches the game."
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Quote of the Day

I love you. I think we [climbed] as high as we possibly can.

— Sergei Fedorov to former Red Wings teammate Nicklas Lidstrom after each was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 on Monday