NEW YORK -- With his team trailing the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final and on the brink of elimination, New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault found some time for levity following what may be his team's final practice of the season.
Entering Game 4 of the Cup Final on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), Vigneault closed his media availability by referencing, of all things, a humorous commercial for Netflix.
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers trail the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final entering Game 4 Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). But the Rangers aren't looking to change much as they begin the long road back from a very deep hole.
"I think we just need to keep doing what we're doing," forward Carl Hagelin said after practice Wednesday. "There are a few mistakes in our own end that we can fix. Other than that it's just a matter of scoring timely goals. That's what they've been good at all series. It's time for us to do that [Wednesday]."
NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo has completed his six-game suspension and is excited to be eligible to play again. But with the Rangers trailing the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final, he had no word regarding his place in the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"We haven't really talked about it," Carcillo said after participating in New York's optional skate Tuesday at MSG. "It feels good to be back around the guys in the room. As far as the lineup goes, I have no idea what's going to happen."
NEW YORK -- Trailing the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final after dropping Games 1 and 2 in overtime, the New York Rangers are understandably excited to bring the best-of-7 series back to Madison Square Garden. They're expecting a boisterous home crowd for Game 3 on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), which should be even more raucous considering the Garden will be hosting its first Cup Final game in 20 years.
MSG last played host to the Cup Final in 1994, when the Rangers hoisted hockey's grandest prize for the first time in 54 years with a Game 7 victory against the Vancouver Canucks. The shadow of that historic 1994 team looms large over this edition of the Rangers.
NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Kings appear to have a stranglehold on the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers heading into Game 3 on Monday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
But despite holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series after winning 5-4 in overtime Saturday, the Kings aren't satisfied with their overall performance.
They're hoping to improve on their mistakes in Game 3 and take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the process.
"There's plenty of room for improvement. We are well aware of the circumstances coming into the game," forward Justin Williams said. "Could we be coming in here 0-2? Yes. Could it be tied? Absolutely. But we found a way to get it done. We're proud of that, but we know you don't want to give any life to this team."
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers' cross-country flight on Sunday may have felt much longer than five-and-a-half hours, especially after the Los Angeles Kings rallied for a 5-4 double-overtime victory in Game 2 on Saturday to take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
But despite losing Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center, the Rangers sounded confident, some may say defiant, heading into Game 3 of the best-of-7 series Monday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"In the last game, I thought we were the best team. Even in the first game, we had more quality chances than them," forward Mats Zuccarello said shortly after the Rangers arrived at Westchester County Airport. "We all do mistakes and sometimes it's going to cost us goals. But as a team we're confident and we all stick together. We have to win two at home to even the series."
Miller skated on his own before the Rangers practiced Monday and is expected to participate in practice Tuesday. He has been out with an upper-body injury since falling shoulder-first into the goal post during the second period in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens. He has two assists in four playoff games after totaling three goals and six points in 30 regular-season games.
NEW YORK --New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan still can't eat solid foods. After a hit early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final from Montreal Canadiens forward and former teammate Brandon Prust fractured his jaw, Stepan had surgery and will be eating through a straw for roughly the next six weeks.
He hopes he will be able to eat properly at his wedding this summer. But with the Rangers now moving on to the Stanley Cup Final after a 1-0 victory in Game 6 on Thursday gave them a 4-2 series win against the Canadiens, Stepan has looked past the late hit that earned Prust a two-game suspension.
"I'm not going to hold it against [Prust]. He finished his check," Stepan said after the series-clinching win. "He feels bad about it. He knows it was late. We move on from there."
Diaz confirmed after the Rangers' morning skate that he would be in for Moore, who was suspended two games Wednesday by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for an illegal hit to the head of Canadiens' forward Dale Weise in the third period of Game 5 on Tuesday.
"I'm fresh and I didn't play for a couple of weeks. Now I've got the opportunity," Diaz said. "I have fresh legs, but it's important to find the rhythm right away from the start. This is really important."
Moore received the two-game ban for an illegal hit on Canadiens forward Dale Weise with 9:19 remaining in the third period of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. He was assessed a match penalty on the play.
"If you talk to us, we're probably thinking more [games]. If you talk to the Rangers, they're thinking less. I guess it's kind of a middle ground," Montreal forward Daniel Briere said moments after the suspension was announced. "I think the biggest thing is hopefully seeing that Dale is OK. That's what matters the most for us."
NEW YORK -- Most of the Montreal Canadiens will be entering uncharted territory when they take the ice against the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). For the members of the Canadiens' roster who have played in the Stanley Cup Final, it's important to impress on their teammates how rare this opportunity is.
NEW YORK -- With his missing tooth and thick playoff beard, Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mike Weaver bears all the telltale features of a veteran stay-at-home NHL defenseman. He's lived up to the look, carving out a career as a shot-blocking defenseman with six different teams in the past 12 seasons.
A graduate of Michigan State University with a major in telecommunications and a minor in virtual reality software development and web design, Weaver is now combining one of his signature skills on the ice with one of his true passions off it.
"I'm the Chief Innovation Officer for this company that's going to come out in a little bit. That's my background," Weaver said. "It's fun. You've got to branch out."
NEW YORK --New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault wouldn't definitely declare that center Derick Brassard would return from an upper-body injury that has kept him out of the past two games of the Eastern Conference Final. But he wasn't subtle when he hinted that Brassard would be back in the lineup for Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.
"I'd say right now he's a game-time decision," Vigneault said of Brassard after New York's morning skate. "And looking good if I was a betting man."
But Pacioretty is the first person to admit that some of his oldest and most enduring playoff memories took place at Madison Square Garden long before he was selected by Montreal in the 2007 NHL Draft.
The U.S. Olympian couldn't help but share some of them as he prepared to play the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday at MSG (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
A Rangers fan growing up in New Canaan, Conn., Pacioretty was inspired to play hockey by New York's run to a Stanley Cup championship in 1994. Pacioretty was 5 years old at the time and his father, Raymond, was a longtime Rangers fan.
"I remember watching the 1994 Stanley Cup from my home. That's when it kind of took off that I wanted to be a hockey player," Pacioretty said. "Right around the age that I started [playing]."
NEW YORK -- After saying in English on Thursday that forward Derick Brassard remained day-to-day with an upper-body injury, New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault sounded far more certain when he discussed Brassard's status in French.
Speaking with French reporters, Vigneault said he did not think Brassard would play against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.
"I would say right now I think no," Vigneault said in French when asked about Brassard's status for Game 3.
The longtime minor-league goaltender was plucked from obscurity and dropped onto hockey's biggest stage after Montreal starter Carey Price was injured in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in Game 2 against the New York Rangers on Monday, Tokarski impressed his teammates by making 27 saves in a 3-1 loss. But it was his poise and calmness in the face of intense pressure that won over the Montreal locker room.
"I thought he reacted well. He seemed comfortable. He made the saves that he had to make," Canadiens forward Daniel Briere said Wednesday. "He didn't seem too nervous. I'm sure on the inside he was. I would have been. He seemed in control."
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers lead the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final heading into Game 3 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Rangers were two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 when they lost to the New Jersey Devils in six games. But when it comes to being up two games in a series, New York is in unfamiliar territory.
It had been five years since the Rangers led a playoff series by two games. Prior to winning Game 2 against Montreal on Monday, New York had lost 13 straight games after taking a series lead.
"It's been a while. We don't pay too much attention to it," Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman said. "We haven't won the series yet. Obviously being up 2-0 in the series is great, but we're still only halfway there. We have to put a strong foot forward next game. We're just looking one game ahead the whole time."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- When New York Rangers forward Derick Brassard suits up against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, he'll have plenty of friends and family watching. But the Quebec native admits that more than a few of them will be rooting against him.
A native of Gatineau, Quebec, Brassard grew up in the thick of Habs Nation, with the Canadiens revered throughout his hometown. It speaks to the place the franchise holds in the province, especially considering Brassard's hometown is about one mile east of Ottawa and about 120 miles from Montreal.
Despite that proximity to the Ottawa Senators, Brassard grew up with constant reminders of the team that now stands between him and the Stanley Cup Final.
"Where I grew up, everyone is a Habs fan," Brassard said. "I grew up watching the games. I have some real good friends who are cheering for the Canadiens right now, so it's a little different."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- For the second time in three seasons the New York Rangers will play in the Eastern Conference Final. Game 1 of the series will be Saturday in Montreal (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
It's an impressive feat for any team, but there are few similarities between this year's team that will play the Montreal Canadiens and the one eliminated by the New Jersey Devils in six games in the 2012 conference final.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers will attend the funeral of France St. Louis on Sunday in Montreal, the day after opening the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens in the city.
St. Louis, the mother of Rangers forward Martin St. Louis, died of a heart attack last week at age 63. The forward learned of the news when the Rangers arrived in Pittsburgh the day before Game 5 of the second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and immediately flew to Montreal to be with his family. He rejoined the Rangers the next day and played in Game 5. With his father, Normand, and sister, Isabelle, in attendance, St. Louis scored the first goal in New York's 3-1 Game 6 win at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
"Marty's [mother's] funeral was supposed to be Saturday. We couldn't move the time of the game, so Marty being who he is was able to move the funeral to Sunday," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "So Sunday, as a team, we'll be able to attend his mother's funeral."
NEW YORK -- It will be an especially poignant Mother's Day for New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis when he faces off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series Sunday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
St. Louis learned Thursday that his mother, France, had passed away at age 63. He immediately rushed to Montreal to be with his family before playing in New York's 5-1 Game 5 win in Pittsburgh on Friday. St. Louis' father, Normand, and sister, Isabelle, will be in attendance at MSG on Sunday.
The memory of France St. Louis will no doubt be in all their thoughts as the Rangers, who trail the best-of-7 series 3-2, look to avoid elimination and force a Game 7.
NEW YORK -- Every NHL team has a specific song cued up in their locker room to celebrate a victory, typically a contemporary rock or hip-hop anthem. Entering Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers would like nothing more than to hear a 1970s disco classic when the final horn sounds.
The Rangers' celebratory song in these playoffs, as it has been the entire season, is "Right Back Where We Started From," a hit for British singer Maxine Nightingale in 1976. The song is older than any of the players but has been an enjoyable, if unlikely, way for the team to celebrate a win. If all goes well for the Rangers on Sunday, they'll be hearing it after Game 6 at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers would prefer to not be trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series, but they may have the ultimate ace up their sleeve facing elimination in Game 6 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Few play better when the season is at stake than Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Trailing 3-1 in the series in Game 5 on Friday, Lundqvist made 31 saves in a 5-1 win that improved his record to 8-2 with a .953 save percentage and 1.38 goals-against average in his past 10 elimination games. In his past six elimination home games, he is 6-0 with an 0.98 goals-against average, .965 save percentage and two shutouts.
In typical Lundqvist fashion, he isn't paying attention to his statistics in must-win games.
NEW YORK -- In what has been a frustrating postseason for New York Rangers forward Rick Nash, Wednesday night has to be considered a low point.
In a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series, Nash struggled to make plays and was roundly booed during the third period by the fans at Madison Square Garden.
When the final horn sounded, the Rangers trailed the best-of-7 series 3-1 and Nash remained without a goal in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and without a point in eight straight games. The series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), when the Rangers will play with their season on the line for the second time in nine days.
NEW YORK --New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider has been cleared to play medically and is considered day-to-day. Kreider has been out since March 24 with a hand fracture that required surgery.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would neither confirm nor deny Kreider's place in the lineup for Game 4 on Wednesday in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins(7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RD).
The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.
The morning after the Rangers enjoyed a day off Tuesday, Kreider participated in his first full-contact practice since sustaining the injury. He said that being out more than a month has been tough but he is hoping to return to the lineup soon.
The Penguins were barely able to maintain sizable leads against the Blue Jackets. But three games into their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the New York Rangers, they may have learned from their previous miscues. They hope to continue that improved play with the lead in Game 4 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"It's been the theme of the playoffs so far, all the come-from-behind wins," Penguins forward Brandon Sutter said Tuesday. "It is tough when you get back on your heels and you have a lead. I think we can be better when we do have the lead, not getting on our heels and trying to keep pushing. No lead is safe, so you've got to keep playing."
Vigneault hopes that day of rest will come in handy when the Rangers host Game 4 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"We've been in the most challenging part of our schedule so far," Vigneault said in a conference call Tuesday. "I'm extremely proud of how they responded and how they played. In our first nine-plus periods against [Pittsburgh], there's seven-plus that I've really liked. Having today to get away from the game a little bit, [get] re-energized, guys are going to come back tomorrow and I know they're looking forward to this next game."
Bylsma sees Pittsburgh's forecheck as the determining factor in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"I think in Game 2 we did a much better job of that, in terms of a heavy forecheck," Bylsma said hours before Game 3. "Making defenseman go back, make them play in the D zone, make it be tough. That is something we have to do in this situation. We did a good job of it last night. We have to do that right from the start."
In their 3-0 loss in Game 2 on Sunday, New York's top players appeared to be a step behind Pittsburgh's stars much of the night. The top defensive pair of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh was on the ice for Kris Letang's second-period game-winner, a pass that caromed off Girardi's stick and past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Vigneault expects a better performance from his top pair, as well as the second defensive pair of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman.
The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are separated by 30 miles and are very familiar with each other thanks to several years of divisional matchups. Despite a shared history that includes the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, they have never played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That is until now.
Fresh off becoming the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, the Kings are ready to forget about their run in the Western Conference First Round against the San Jose Sharks and focus on their Southern California rival.
NEW YORK -- Moments after the New York Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Second Round with a 2-1, Game 7 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, they weren't taking too much time to celebrate. They were instead preparing to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Fresh off their third game in four days, New York's coaching staff was already putting together the game plan for their Metropolitan Division rival.
"We're going to prepare that tonight," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We're battle-tested and we're ready for the next series."
The Penguins finished the season first in the division, 13 points ahead of the second-place Rangers. New York and Pittsburgh split four regular-season games, with each team winning once in the shootout and the Rangers holding a 13-12 advantage in goals scored.
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have plenty of big-game experience to draw on heading into Game 7 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN2, MSG, CSN-PHI).
If their recent success in winner-take-all games has taught the Rangers anything, it's that experience won't necessarily matter.
"You've just got to go out and play. You can't overthink, you can't overanalyze," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "They know us well, we know them well. They're going to go out and play, we're going to go out and play."
Four years later, the former teammates are playing in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With the Rangers leading their best-of-7 series 3-2, any fond memories between the two have been put on hold heading into Game 6 on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS, MSG, CSN-PH).
But every indication is that forward Daniel Carcillo will remain in the lineup and continue to add fuel to an already fiery matchup.
After being a healthy scratch for the first two games, Carcillo made an impact against his former team in Game 3 on Tuesday. Skating on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, he played his signature physical style and took two penalties before scoring the final goal in a 4-1 win that allowed New York to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Carcillo was excited about the goal but was more concerned about the two penalties, especially considering the Rangers have preached discipline throughout the series.
"I know my role. I said it when I got here. No matter where I am in the lineup, to be an energy guy, a role guy, be physical, wear the other team down," Carcillo said after practice Thursday. "I just have to be smarter going forward with the stuff after the whistle. We addressed that today."
After blowing an early two-goal lead in the previous game, the New York Rangers made some defensive adjustments Tuesday to claim a 4-1 win in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers and take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series.
That ability to adapt has the Rangers feeling confident heading into Game 4 on Friday at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN, MSG, RDS).
As the Rangers did in Game 2 on Sunday, they took a 2-0 lead Tuesday before the Flyers scored a late first-period goal. Unlike Game 2, in which New York surrendered three more goals in a 4-2 loss, the Rangers defense answered when called upon.
"Last night, we had to make a lot of great defensive plays, whether it be the blocked shots or getting numbers back so we could be able to get the puck out of our end," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said in a conference call Wednesday. "Philly had a strong game, they came at us with pushes and good looks. But compared to other games that we have played this year, in last night's game we had to make a lot of great defensive plays. That's part of hockey and we found a way to win."
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers were able to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Philadelphia Flyers with a penalty kill followed by two power-play goals 47 seconds apart.
Heading into Game 2 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden (noon ET; NBC, TSN, RDS), the Rangers know that continuing that success on special teams would likely swing the best-of-7 series in their favor.
Following a successful kill of Ryan McDonagh's high-sticking penalty early in the third period, New York scored twice after Philadelphia forward Jason Akeson was assessed a four-minute penalty for a high stick. The sequence decided the 4-1 win.
"You look at all the series right now, power play and penalty killing are always big deciders of momentum during the game," New York coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Saturday. "The last game, our penalty kill gave us that big kill at the beginning of the third against a really good power play and then our power play was able to get us those two quick goals."
Mason participated in a full practice Saturday but hunched over repeatedly near the end of the skate and appeared to be experiencing some discomfort.
"For the most part, I felt pretty solid. I'm getting better every day but I won't be playing tomorrow," Mason said. "With the last 10 minutes in practice, what's bothering me wasn't feeling very good. We decided we need to give it more time before I get back in there."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- By the time some New York Rangers assembled for an optional skate Friday, they had already forgotten about their 4-1 win Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Rangers are looking ahead to Game 2 of their Eastern Conference First Round series, which they'll host Sunday at Madison Square Garden (noon ET; NBC, TSN, RDS).
"It's a good first step. It's only one step," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We know that our opponent on Sunday morning is going to be ready. We're going to need to be prepared and we're going to need to be better. We're very aware of that."
NEW YORK -- The Philadelphia Flyers have lived up to their billing as the Broad Street Bullies for decades. As the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin, what exactly is the identity of the New York Rangers, who the Flyers meet Thursday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN, RDS, CSN-PH, MSG) at Madison Square Garden?
Alain Vigneault has reshaped that identity since replacing John Tortorella as coach last summer, turning the Rangers into a team reliant on depth and chemistry at every position. That refusal to alter his lines and insistence on rolling four forward combinations and six defensemen keyed New York's run to the postseason and could be the difference against Philadelphia.
"That was the game plan in an Olympic year with having the Olympians go and the tightened schedule, especially down the stretch in March," forward Brad Richards said. "There was a reason why we were able to play good hockey, and I think that everybody was spread out and had responsibilities and we weren't [running] on fumes coming in."
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers admitted they were already feeling the emotions that typically come with the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But it's reigning in those emotions that could prove key as they open their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN, RDS, MSG, CSN-PH).
With intensity running high in the postseason, avoiding costly penalties is imperative to any team's success. It could be especially true against the Flyers, who led the NHL in penalty minutes this season.
If their previous games are any indication, the first Flyers-Rangers playoff series in 17 years should be a physical affair. In their four regular-season games, New York and Philadelphia combined for 231 penalty minutes. Former Flyer and current Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo drew 27 penalty minutes in two games.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- To a man, the New York Rangers are looking forward to their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Game 1 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, RDS, TSN), defenseman Marc Staal may be itching for the opening faceoff just a little more than his teammates.
It's been some time since he last enjoyed a playoff run.
This time last year, Staal was forced to watch the Rangers in the playoffs as he recovered from an eye injury. He missed two months before returning for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals. After logging 17:17 of ice time, he was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the postseason. Just over two weeks later, New York was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Boston Bruins.
Entering this season's playoffs fully healthy and at the top of his game, Staal admits Game 1 can't come fast enough.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. --New York Rangers center Derick Brassard declared himself healthy and ready to go for their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round takes place Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, RDS, TSN) at Madison Square Garden.
Brassard participated in practice with the Rangers on Wednesday and left early. His status came into question Tuesday when he left New York's skate with a back injury.
"I felt good today. I could have skated for the whole practice, it was just for precautions," Brassard said. "I feel 100 percent for tomorrow."
McDonagh declared himself ready to return from a shoulder injury after skating Saturday at Bell Centre, but coach Alain Vigneault will make him rest a few more days before returning.
After sustaining the injury April 1 against the Vancouver Canucks, McDonagh has missed the past four games. His defense partner, Dan Girardi, will also sit out with wing Martin St. Louis, who was given the day off and did not skate.
"I feel really good. The last two days especially I've been able to get my shot back even harder. Passing and skating is no issue," McDonagh said. "I told them I'd feel ready to play. You've got to respect the coach's decision. He's running the team."
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have already clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Buffalo Sabres have already secured the NHL's worst record. But each team will still have plenty to play for when the Rangers host the Sabres on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
New York is 8-2-1 in its past 11 games and appears to be finding its stride in time for the postseason. They can also take one step closer to clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a win against Buffalo. The opportunity to secure home ice is something the Rangers are not taking lightly.
"I think it's important. In the playoffs everything is so tight, it's a different animal from the regular season," forward Brad Richards said. "When you can have last change if it goes to the all-important seventh game, it's a big advantage. We're going to try our best for it."
McDonagh remains day-to-day and did not shoot the puck while on the ice, indicating that his injured left shoulder is not yet ready for game action. Kreider participated in some hard skating drills but did not wear a glove over his injured left hand, which was wrapped in a cast.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said there was a 50-percent chance that McDonagh would return to action before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers clinched a postseason berth after the New Jersey Devils lost 1-0 to the Calgary Flames on Monday.
McDonagh did not participate in the Rangers morning skate, meaning that if they hope to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with one point against the Senators, they'll do it without their top defenseman.
"Guys have to play in different positions than they're used to," defenseman Marc Staal said. "Guys will have to step up and get better, and hopefully we get him back sooner than later."
NEWARK, N.J. -- Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will start in consecutive games for the first time since being traded to the Minnesota Wild on March 4.
Bryzgalov, who started his NHL season late after agreeing to a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilerson Nov. 8, will get the start Thursday against the New Jersey Devils after stopping 36 shots in a 6-0 shutout of the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
"That's kind of our guideline. When a goalie has a shutout we like to come back with him," Wild coach Mike Yeo said after practice. "I just thought he was very good in that game, especially early in the game. All game long he had a very calming presence in the net and he looked big. We want to give him a chance to get back at it and see if he can continue that."
Torres missed the first five months of the season after undergoing knee surgery during training camp. He had five points in five games after returning to the lineup, but recent soreness has forced the 32-year-old to miss his fourth straight game.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has been doing plenty of line juggling. When forward Martin St. Louiswas acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline from the Tampa Bay Lighting, the assumption was that he would seamlessly fit on a line with former Lightning teammate Brad Richards. When those two failed to provide consistent offense, Vigneault made some changes, opting to put St. Louis on a line with forward Mats Zuccarello and center Derick Brassard.
Lundqvist enters the Sunday matinee one win short of 300 for his career. He is also two wins shy of Mike Richter's franchise record of 301.
If Lundqvist continues with his frantic pace of late, he should be New York's career wins leader within days. He played six games for Sweden at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the most of any goaltender in the tournament, and had a 1.50 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in leading the Swedes to the silver medal.
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers are hoping to have Martin St. Louis in their lineup Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden. But the Leafs won't be making any tweaks in their game plan, regardless of whether or not St. Louis makes it to the Rangers' locker room in time to play.
St. Louis, the defending Art Ross Trophy winner, was acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline for Ryan Callahan and two draft picks.
"You have two players that are the faces of their franchise exchanging places. Those are big deals, but we can only worry about what we have to do," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said after the team's morning skate. "We always respect the opposition. We know the Rangers are going to play an aggressive forechecking style of hockey. They're going to come after us. It doesn't matter if Marty St. Louis is there or not. We've got to be ready to play our game and manage the puck properly."
NEW YORK -- The Edmonton Oilers arrived in New York for their lone game this season at Madison Square Garden with a little spring in their step. Winning four of the past five games will do that to a young team.
Hoping to finish strong as they close out a four-game road trip Thursday in New York and Friday against the New Jersey Devils before the Olympic break, the Oilers have shown improvement of late, and defenseman Justin Schultz has been a big part of that.
"He's been good. Justin has made some great strides this year," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said after the morning skate. "He's a guy we're relying on heavily right now for minutes. We're able to play him those minutes because of his improved defensive play."
NEW YORK -- Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche entered Tuesday night leading all NHL rookies with 20 goals and 41 points. He has eight points during a five-game point streak and 12 points in his last eight games.
That kind of production by an 18-year-old, even one who was talented enough to be taken with the first pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, has caught many people off-guard -- including MacKinnon's own coach.
"He's putting up more points than I thought he was going to," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said prior to Colorado's game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. "Right now he's playing with a lot of confidence. I'm trying to push him a little more. What impresses me most is the consistency he's capable of every night."
NEW YORK -- With the New York Rangers running four lines for much of the past month, it seems like a different trio has provided a key goal every game. But during their current three-game winning streak, it's been impossible to miss the team's third line of Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot.
The line has combined for 10 points in the past three games, including two game-tying and two game-winning goals. It's an impressive run for a line that has managed to develop great chemistry on the ice as well as off.
"I think everyone just works hard," Zuccarello said after the team's practice Tuesday. "We're all capable of doing everything, working hard, taking the body, backcheck, forecheck. I think we just read off each other really well. We have four good lines, so there's not a lot of pressure. There's pressure on every line, but it's not like we have more pressure than the other ones. That's a strength to our team lately."
NEW YORK -- One of the youngest teams in the NHL, the New York Islanders haven't had too many opportunities to see their two oldest players suit up at the same time.
Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, 37, returned to the lineup Monday after missing more than three months with a concussion, the sixth of his career. The team's elder statesman, 38-year-old goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, made 32 saves in a 2-1 loss Wednesday to the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium, his first start since returning earlier in the week from a lower-body injury.
Those veterans could be crucial if the Islanders hope to move up in the standings before the upcoming Olympic break. That potential make-or-break run begins against the Rangers on Friday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
NEW YORK -- Defenseman Kevin Klein was about 15 minutes away from leaving home to accompany the Nashville Predators on a flight to Vancouver on Wednesday when he received a phone call from Predators general manager David Poile to let him know he had been traded. He just didn't say where.
Within minutes Klein learned through social media that he was the newest member of the New York Rangers, a fact that was confirmed by another call from Poile.
Klein was selected by the Predators in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft (No. 37) and came up through the organization with many of Nashville's top players, including fellow defenseman and captain Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne. Leaving that group was tough for Klein, who was sent to the Rangers in exchange for defenseman Michael Del Zotto. But he said Thursday he's excited to start a new chapter in his career.
"I didn't see it [the trade] coming," Klein said. "But I heard it was the New York Rangers and I was pretty excited to start that chapter, for sure. I was there for 10 years in that [Nashville] organization, drafted there and everything. That's all I know. So it's a sad day. But at the same time it's going to be nice to see another organization and play in a big hockey market. I know three or four of the guys, which is nice. Makes it easier to transition."
NEW YORK -- With the New York Rangers set to play the first of three games in 11 days against the New York Islanders, a home-and-home sandwiched around the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium, goaltender Cam Talbot got an interesting surprise Tuesday morning.
With No. 1 goaltender Henrik Lundqvist out with an illness, Talbot will get the start at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers agreed to a contract with 30-year-old David LeNeveu on Monday afternoon and he'll serve as the backup.
"I got here this morning and I was told he wasn't feeling well," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of Lundqvist. "Every time we've used Cam this year, he's given us a chance to win. So our group is very confident when he's in goal."
NEW YORK -- After losing 10 of their past 13 games, the Washington Capitals arrived at Madison Square Garden for their morning skate facing a sobering reality. After at least sharing second place in the Metropolitan Division for much of the season, the team woke up Sunday in fifth.
NEW YORK -- When the Detroit Red Wings play the New York Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, they'll look markedly different from the last time they came to the Big Apple on March 21, 2012.
A number of key veterans, including Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen, did not skate Thursday and will not play at MSG. With so many injuries the Red Wings have relied on their prospects, a number of whom won the Calder Cup last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. The latest of those prospects to arrive in the NHL is 21-year-old Tomas Jurco, who was recalled from Grand Rapids on Tuesday after an earlier seven-game NHL stint.
"There's lots of stuff I learn every day," Jurco said. "One of them is consistency. Just to be good every night. Even if there is no game just to be great at practice."
Jurco said having so many familiar faces in the room has made adjusting to the League that much easier.
"It's good for me," he said. "I'm used to all those guys being my teammates for the last couple of years. It's good to have them here. It makes me feel a little more comfortable."
NEW YORK --Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper wouldn't guarantee that No. 1 goaltender Ben Bishop would get the start Tuesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but he did sound confident that Bishop would get his first start since sustaining a sprained right wrist Jan. 5 in a 5-3 loss at the Edmonton Oilers.
"Bishop has got a real good chance to be in [Tuesday]," Cooper said Tuesday, hours after the Lightning lost 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, a game that saw them allow a pair of third-period power-play goals that cost them the game.
The hope is that Bishop, who ranks in the NHL's top five in wins, save percentage and shutouts, can provide a spark. Tampa Bay has dropped three of its past five during a stretch that will see them play their eighth game in their eighth different city when they take on the Rangers.
NEW YORK --New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello admits it has been some time since he represented his country on the international stage. But it was an eye-opening experience for Zuccarello when he skated for his native Norway in 2010.
Zuccarello's international experience that year started with the Vancouver Olympics, where he led an overmatched Norwegian team that lost all four games by a combined score of 23-8. But things got better for Zuccarello and the Norwegians when they competed at the IIHF World Championship that spring in Germany. The wing led a vastly-improved Norwegian squad, scoring the winner in a 3-2 win against Switzerland, as well as a big goal in a major 3-2 upset of the Czech Republic.
Now being called upon to represent his country at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Zuccarello is hoping to continue that steady improvement for his national team.
"It's going to be cool. A good experience. We're a small country. I guess we have as many hockey players as Toronto has ice rinks," said Zuccarello, who met with Norwegian hockey officials last week to discuss logistics for the upcoming games. "It's going to be tough but at the same time we made it to the Olympics, we'll do our best and work hard. We're equally as proud to represent our country as the Canadians and the Swedes and everybody else."
"His intensity level is not where it needs to be shift to shift," Berube said following Philadelphia's optional skate.
Downie has dealt with a concussion and an upper-body injury since being traded to Philadelphia on Oct. 31 in a trade that sent Maxime Talbot to the Colorado Avalanche. He has been held without a point in his past nine games and took two penalties in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon. He was also on the ice for Valtteri Filppula's winning goal, which was scored 66 seconds after Jakub Voracek scored in the second period to tie the game 3-3.
"I just have to come to work and work hard every day. It is what it is," said Downie, who hinted that he might still be dealing with injuries. "I feel good. I'm definitely not feeling great. It comes down to playing hard. I have to find that game again."
NEW YORK -- That captain Jamie Benn and top scorer Tyler Seguin have carried the Dallas Stars offense this season is no secret. The pair's 36 combined goals account for 30 percent of the Stars' 120 non-shootout goals. That's a lot of accountability for two young players.
But with Dallas taking a four-game losing streak into its game Friday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the pair is looking to help provide a spark for a team that has four goals in its past three games, including a 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
"Throughout the year you're going to go through your ups and downs and your adversity here and there," Benn said. "We've hit that point right now. Things aren't going the way we want. It's about sticking together and getting through it as a team and finding a way to get out of it."
The high-scoring duo has combined for one goal and no assists in the past three games. So with a three-game road swing through the New York/New Jersey area concluding Friday, they want to recapture their scoring touch.
NEW YORK -- The Columbus Blue Jackets received some great news Monday. Franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will start against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden after missing 14 games with a groin injury. And his return couldn't have come at a better time.
Columbus sits seventh in the Metropolitan Division with 44 points but trail the third-place Washington Capitals by six points and the fifth-place Rangers by four. Bobrovsky returns at the beginning of a crucial stretch that will see Columbus play four of its next five games against divisional opponents and nine of its next 13 at home.
"This would be huge. These are the games you're going to look back at the end of the season. We know that," said forward Nick Foligno, who couldn't help but smile when asked about Bobrovsky's return. "It's great. He's worked hard to get himself healthy. He's a big part of this team, a great goaltender. We're excited to get him back. It's a big boost for our team."
The Blue Jackets should have some confidence heading into their game at MSG. The last time they played there on Dec. 12, they raced out to a 3-0 first-period lead and chased Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist before winning 4-2 despite playing without Bobrovsky and losing starter Curtis McElhinney to an injury. That one-sided win will likely motivate both teams heading into the game Monday.
"It's a divisional game and we're looking up at them in the standings," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We were just here and had some success. I think that's something we can build off of, but they're probably using that for motivation."
The 2013 Vezina Trophy winner's return couldn't have come at a better time. Columbus begins a stretch Monday in which it plays four of its next five games against teams from the Metropolitan Division, where six points separate the third-place Washington Capitals from the seventh-place Blue Jackets.
In light of this crucial stretch of games, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said he was willing to ride his franchise goaltender.
"Bob is in the lineup because he's 100 percent healthy. To be 100 percent means he's just like he was prior to the injury," Richards said. "If we need to play Bob in back-to-back games, we believe he's healthy and capable enough to do that.".
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Making his third appearance in the Winter Classic and his first with the Toronto Maple Leafs, forward James van Riemsdyk already had plenty of outdoor experience before Toronto beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Wednesday.
It may have been van Riemsdyk's first time playing at the Big House, but it's a building he was already very familiar with before becoming an NHL player.
As a member of the United States National Team Development Program under-18 team, van Riemsdyk lived in Ann Arbor for two years. While developing the skills that would one day take him to the NHL, he attended Pioneer High School, which is located down the street from Michigan Stadium. So it was slightly surreal to prepare to play in a game at the stadium as hundreds of revelers tailgated in the Pioneer High School parking lot.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Actor Matthew Perry is used to grand spectacles. The famous actor is accustomed to the glitz and grandiosity that can occasionally come with film premieres and award shows. Still, none of it prepared him for what he's experienced this week at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
"It's such an overload, it's too much. I don't even know the score in the game, there's too much going on," Perry said while attending the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. "I went to the alumni game [Tuesday]. It was fun seeing those guys. A lot of them look like they haven't lost a step."
A diehard Los Angeles Kings fan, Perry is used to attending big sporting events. He was a fixture at Staples Center when the Kings enjoyed a deep playoff run that resulted in the franchise's first Stanley Cup win. But he had never been to an outdoor hockey game, so when a friend invited him to the Winter Classic this year he knew he had to experience the spectacle firsthand.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Since the details of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic were first announced, players on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings have been fielding numerous ticket requests from friends and family. But for Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, the big game at Michigan Stadium will be a huge moment for his family that could potentially be made even more special after the game ends.
Howard lived in Ann Arbor while playing with the United States National Team Development Program as a teenager, so he'll have plenty of old friends in attendance. But the Big House will also host four generations of Howard's family for the Winter Classic. Howard's grandfather, James Howard I, will be in attendance, along with his father, James Howard II, and his two-year-old son, James Howard IV.
For Grandpa Howard, known as J-one among friends and family, it's an incredible event that he didn't exactly envision when the Detroit goalie was a child. A wrestling coach at Oswego State University in western New York, the eldest Howard had different plans for J-three.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan is used to hosting tailgaters for Wolverines football games every year, but the Michigan Stadium grounds usually lie dormant on New Year's Day. So it was quite a scene to see the area surrounding the stadium suddenly flooded with countless hockey fans who packed up the RV, set up the grill and, in some cases, started a spirited game of floor hockey.
"We have the bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, we're going to do some nice burgers and we have lots of beer," said Windsor native Sarah Kilbourne, a Detroit Lions season ticket holder who is used to spending the day tailgating. "When we're doing the Lions, we change [the menu] week by week. This week we figured let's make it easy. We did burgers, hot dogs, keep it simple."
DETROIT -- The Steve Yzerman-led Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup three times in six seasons. When numerous players from those championship teams participated in an alumni game doubleheader Tuesday at Comerica Park, it was a special opportunity to revisit those winning memories.
And on a team that was known for specific line combinations, it was a unique chance to recapture some of that old chemistry.
DETROIT -- When the Detroit Red Wings revealed Tuesday they had called up forward Luke Glendening one day before the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, few people were more excited for the 24-year-old than his former coach at the University of Michigan, Red Berenson.
"Luke is a tremendous kid. They've brought him up and down and he's played 16 games for the Wings," Berenson said. "He's a role player, he knows his role. He's excited to be there. I'm excited for him."
After playing Monday at Comerica Park for the Grand Rapids Griffins in an American Hockey League game against the Toronto Marlies, Glendening is now poised to play in his second outdoor game in three days. It's an interesting turn for a player who played in three outdoor games as a Michigan Wolverine.
DETROIT -- Most of the former members of the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs who participated in the first of two alumni games Tuesday at Comerica Park aren't that far removed from their glory days. A number of them, like Detroit's Mathieu Schneider and Aaron Ward or Toronto's David Reid and Cory Cross were still in the NHL just a few years ago and were in their 40s when they took the ice the day before the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
Those players only a few years removed from their time in the League were particularly impressed by the performances from the older players participating in the alumni game.
Doug Favell, 68, started in net for the Maple Leafs alumni and occasionally showed impressive flashes of quickness. In perhaps the game's most surreal moment, Detroit opened the scoring when Favell allowed a goal by defenseman Jiri Fischer, who retired prematurely due to a heart condition and is 35 years Favell's junior.
"That was awesome, seeing Doug out there with the pads," Maple Leafs goaltender Peter Ing said. "I thought someone would lob one at the net, but the first one was a heater. I felt for him."
DETROIT -- With so many former Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings players looking to participate in the 2013 Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings Alumni Showdown, preceding the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1, fans will be treated to a rare doubleheader. Comerica Park will host back-to-back alumni games Tuesday, with each game featuring a variety of notable names from Red Wings and Maple Leafs history.
"I felt Cam played a good game for us last night and just [made the decision to] go with him," Vigneault said before the Rangers' game Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden.
In 11 appearances, Talbot is 7-2-0 with a .936 save percentage and a 1.67 goals-against average. The Rangers have also averaged 2.78 goals per game in Talbot's nine starts, compared to 2.15 in Lundqivst's 27 starts.
NEW YORK -- Recent American Hockey League call-up Jerry D'Amigo doesn't know how long he'll stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 22-year-old wing has two points in 10 games since his arrival from the Toronto Marlies on Dec. 5 and is hoping to secure his spot on the roster.
But regardless of whether he is sent down following the end of the holiday roster freeze, he's guaranteed to have an eventful holiday. Not only will the Maple Leafs be playing against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1 in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but the Marlies will face off against Detroit's AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, at Comerica Park in Detroit on Dec. 30.
"If I get sent down, either here or there I'm going to have an outdoor game," D'Amigo said. "I think it will be pretty cool. Hopefully it's not too cold of a day out there."
NEW YORK -- A difficult stretch for the Toronto Maple Leafs was made even more challenging when an ice storm hit the Toronto area, leaving a reported 215,000 people without electricity. As a result the Maple Leafs' charter plane was stuck on the runway for three hours before taking off.
The delayed flight was just the latest challenge for a Toronto team hoping to enter the Christmas break with a big win in a crucial game against the New York Rangers on Monday at Madison Square Garden.
"Points are points. You've got to always keep climbing the standings," center Nazem Kadri said. "Teams below you are trying to catch you and teams above you are trying to pull away. That's just the nature of the League. We've got to make sure we keep up with the pace."
NEW YORK --Minnesota Wild center Mikael Granlund will return to the lineup Sunday night against the New York Rangers after missing 11 games with a head injury. The hope is that the 21-year-old can help revitalize a Minnesota offense that has gone ice cold, scoring two or fewer goals in 11 of the past 13 games.
"I want to see him go out and play with confidence and bring what he can bring," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Obviously we'll be realistic with our expectations, but there is no better way of getting back in there except throwing him right in the fire."
Granlund was hurt on his first shift against the Phoenix Coyotes on Nov. 27, his first game back after missing two games due to another head injury. Before his struggles with injuries, he had found chemistry centering the Wild's second line between Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter.
On Jan. 1, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings will meet at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. The game is expected to be a landmark hockey event, not to mention a key matchup between Original Six and Atlantic Division rivals.
But it won't be the first time the stadium has hosted hockey; the University of Michigan and Michigan State University met on Dec. 11, 2010 in a rivalry game dubbed the Big Chill at the Big House. The game drew a world record attendance of 113,411 fans. And for the future NHL players who played in that epic contest, a 5-0 Michigan win, there are still plenty of vivid memories from a special moment in hockey history.
"I had 30 people from Sweden coming in wearing the Swedish national team jersey with my name and number on the back. You couldn't see them up there since everyone was wearing yellow," said New York Rangers forward Carl Hagelin. "It was a great atmosphere. It was probably one of the most surreal experiences I've been a part of. The crowd was going the whole game. After the game we stayed out on the ice and waited for the fireworks. That was a good memory."
NEW YORK -- The rivalry between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders has always been one of the NHL's most intense, and that doesn't figure to change Friday night at Madison Square Garden as each team is in dire need of points.
The Rangers have gotten off to a 1-3-2 start to their franchise-record nine-game homestand. The Islanders haven't won in regulation since Nov. 12 and find themselves in last place in the Metropolitan Division with 25 points in 35 games. Each team will look to turn things around against its heated rival in a preview of the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game set for Jan. 29 at Yankee Stadium.
"It's always fun to play these games. They're always heated, they're always close," Islanders forward Matt Martin said. "There's no better place to get two points than in Madison Square Garden."
This is the second game this season between these regional rivals, who met Oct. 29 at Nassau Coliseum in a game the Rangers won 3-2. For players who are new to the history of these two teams, that game was an eye-opener.
"People have been talking about it [the rivalry] since I got here. I didn't really realize how serious it was until the first game at the Coliseum. It was pretty crazy. The intensity level was just ratcheted up that much more. It kind of had a playoff feel to it," said forward Cal Clutterback, acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild over the summer.
The pair were taken 10 picks apart in the 2011 NHL Draft, Strome fifth and Miller 15th, and have spent much of their lives facing off on every conceivable stage: the Ontario Hockey League, under-17 World Hockey Challenge, IIHF World Under-18 Championship, and World Junior Championship. They last met three weeks ago in an American Hockey League game between Strome's Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Miller's Hartford Wolf Pack. Strome scored twice in Bridgeport's 3-2 win.
Friday at Madison Square Garden the pair will face off for the first time in an NHL game.
"It will be a little different. This game is a little different from the other levels we've played at," said Miller, who was called up Thursday by the Rangers after a two-game stint with Hartford. "We just know each other because we've played against each other for so many years, going back to U.S.-Canada games so many times with the national team."
NEW YORK --Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin did not travel with the team for its game Wednesday against the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) and will miss the Penguins' home game Thursday against the Minnesota Wild (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) before being re-evaluated, according to Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. Bylsma said Malkin skated on his own Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Malkin sustained a lower-body injury Saturday when he fell feet-first into the boards during the Penguins' game at the Detroit Red Wings. He sat out the game Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It's just the latest injury news for a team that also is missing its top four defensemen due to a variety of injuries. With Rob Scuderi (ankle), Paul Martin (undisclosed) and Brooks Orpik (concussion) already out, the Penguins put Kris Letang on injured reserve Monday with an upper-body injury. Pittsburgh filled his spot on the blue line by calling up Philip Samuelsson from the American Hockey League this week.
Bylsma said he's been pleased with the performance of this patched-up defense corps.
NEW YORK -- In what was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Calgary Flames, goaltending was the biggest issues during training camp. With longtime franchise goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff retiring after nine seasons in Calgary, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the Flames' crease.
But as the Flames have managed to defy expectations in 2013-14, a major key for them has been the contributions from goaltender Karri Ramo, who will make his third start in four days when the Flames take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
"Our goaltending has been really solid," Flames associate coach Jacques Cloutier said. "Karri Ramo has been playing extremely well of late. He's a big reason we're able to win games."
Nash hinted there were certain things he may have done differently in his final days with the Blue Jackets before being traded to New York.
"I think it could have been a bit smoother of … I guess you can call it an exit. I thought everyone was honest, everyone was in the same boat. At the end of the day, when someone asks to move on for their career, you have to assume it's going to get messy," Nash said following New York's optional skate Thursday. "The only thing that kept me going was the fans stayed behind me. They understood my decision, my situation. I honor that with the fans, that they understood."
As they play their first game in New York since the trade, they're looking forward to facing their former team Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
"I'm excited to play tonight. It was nice to get an opportunity to go out to dinner with some friends from here. This is my first time back in the city since I got traded. It's nice, I'm really looking forward to it," Dubinsky said after Columbus' morning skate. "You've got to channel those emotions the right way. It's going to be a little different being on this side of the ice to start the game. I think after the first couple of shifts I'll settle in."
In 2012, Dubinsky, Anisimov, defenseman Tim Erixon and a 2013 first-round pick were traded to Columbus for Nash and Steve Delisle. More than a year after the trade, both players admitted their return to MSG stirred up emotions from their time in New York.
NEW YORK -- One day after being called up from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League, Arron Asham will be expected to do the things that have helped him carve out an NHL career for the past 14 years.
The veteran forward said he would be focusing on the physical play that has marked his career as he is inserted back into the New York Rangers lineup after spending the past two months in the AHL.
"I just have to come in here and spark a little life in the fourth line, try to get the boys going," Asham said. "Just play the way I have the last 14 years. Finish my checks, chip in offensively here and there and try to keep the puck out of my own net. It seems to have been working out so I'm going to try to work with that and not get too fancy."
Staal's injury was originally diagnosed as a neck issue, although he was described as having concussion-like symptoms.
Now that the concussion is confirmed, the Rangers will keep Staal out of the lineup until his condition improves.
"Marc has been diagnosed with a concussion," Vigneault said. "He's being watched by our doctors. They don't feel it's as serious as what he might have had in the past. He's feeling better and we'll take it day by day."
Rangers' coach Alain Vigneault revealed that the neck issues were causing Staal to have "some symptoms," but would not elaborate on whether or not Staal was dealing with the same concussion issues that forced him to miss 35 games in 2011-12. Staal also missed 27 regular season games last season following a scary eye injury caused by a deflected puck.
NEW YORK -- Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane will not play Monday against the New York Rangers after sustaining a lower-body injury early in the second period of a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday. In Kane's absence, John Albert, who was recalled Sunday from the Jets' American Hockey League affiliate in St. John's, will make his NHL debut.
"It's day-to-day. [Evander] won't be in the game tonight. So we'll just take it from there," Jets coach Claude Noel said, making clear what he expected from Albert in his first NHL game. "He just needs to be able to hold his own. He has to trust the way he plays. He's been good on faceoffs, he's been good on penalty kills. He's a guy who plays with speed. He just needs to earn the trust of the coaches and the staff."
The 26-year-old, who has a 6-1-0 record and leads the NHL entering action Monday in goals-against average (1.49) and save percentage (.944), suspected the text meant he would be starting consecutive games for the first time in his brief NHL career. But at the time he wasn't sure.
He's sure now after coach Alain Vigneault revealed Monday that Talbot will start in net for the Rangers against the Winnipeg Jets. It's the first time goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has sat out consecutive games since February 2011. But Vigneault downplayed any talk of a controversy.
"Cam has played extremely well right now. He's got a lot of confidence in his abilities and for tonight's game I just thought that was the right call," Vigneault said. "Henrik is definitely the No. 1 goaltender on this team. He's proven that over the years he's one of the best if not the best in the National Hockey League. But for tonight's game I feel the best thing for us is to go with Cam."
NEW YORK -- Roughly a third of the way into their first seasons with their respective new teams, Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella and New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault are still looking to establish a team identity, or at least one that matches what they envisioned when they first took over their new jobs.
It's an unusual situation, considering the two coaches essentially swapped jobs during the summer when Tortorella was fired after slightly more than four seasons in New York and Vigneault was let go after seven seasons in Vancouver.
Entering his first regular season game against his former team, Tortorella admitted the Canucks were still finding themselves as a team.
"I don't think so. I think we're making strides. I don't think we've totally nailed it down," Tortorella said when asked if the Canucks had found their identity. "I think it's very important we get there as soon as possible. I think you need it be who you are. We still haven't totally defined that. I have an idea of who we'd like to be. But we're still in the process of trying to get that to be instinctive for our players and how we play."
NEW YORK -- Coach Alain Vigneault was not at the helm last season when the New York Rangers were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in a five-game Eastern Conference Semifinal series. But he admitted to harboring his own personal feelings for the defending Eastern Conference champions.
"I don't need to have played for the Rangers to have a dislike for Boston," Vigneault said after New York's morning skate. "I got that on my own."
As coach of the Vancouver Canucks, who dismissed him following last season's first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, Vigneault and his team lost to the Bruins in seven games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. That series was an intense one for all parties involved, but Vigneault didn't feel any need to remind his players of their respective histories with Boston.
"I think everybody is aware of the New York-Boston rivalry. It's a good one," Vigneault said. "It's intense and it's going to be that way [Tuesday]."
NEW YORK -- All-Star forward Rick Nash confirmed after the morning skate that he will be in the lineup for the New York Rangers on Tuesday night as they take on the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).
It will mark Nash's first game since sustaining a concussion on Oct. 8 against the San Jose Sharks.
Nash missed 17 games with the injury and admitted he was curious to see how he would respond to his first game action in over a month.
"I'm excited. Kind of a controlled emotion. It's been a long six weeks, so I'm excited to get in there," Nash said after the morning skate. "I think the first everything is going to take a while, whether it's a hit, a shot, a pass, making different plays. It was a long time off, so it's going to take some time."
NEW YORK -- To say the New York Rangers were long overdue for a win in Montreal would be a major understatement.
After losing eight straight games against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre, New York finally got that elusive win in Quebec Saturday night. They only scored one goal, their first in four contests in Montreal, but it was enough with Cam Talbot making 22 saves to secure the 1-0 win.
With their first win in Montreal since March 17, 2009, the Rangers are looking to ride that momentum into their next game Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings.
"I think it's good for the team. Anytime we can get a road win, especially when you go into that building, where there hasn't been a lot of success," Rangers associate coach Scott Arniel said, "we want to use it as momentum."
NEW YORK -- When he first saw the Los Angeles Kings' four-game road swing through New York and New Jersey on the calendar, goaltender Ben Scrivens thought he might have a chance to catch up with some old classmates from Cornell University, many of whom live in the New York metropolitan area.
But those plans changed drastically early in the trip for the Alberta native, who played four years at Cornell and was named ECAC goalie of the year in 2010.
In the first game Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres, franchise goaltender Jonathan Quick was lost to a lower-body injury and forced to go back home to further evaluate the ailment. That injury thrust Scrivens into the L.A. crease. He'll be there again Sunday night at Madison Square Garden as the Kings face the New York Rangers.
NEW YORK -- Having won six of their past seven games and elevated their record to above .500 for the first time all season, the New York Rangers will look to continue their success Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils. They will ice mostly the same lineup that in recent weeks has helped them rebound from a difficult 2-6-0 start in which they were outscored 31-12.
The Rangers held an optional skate Tuesday which was attended by five players, including forwards Rick Nash and Dominic Moore, both of whom are working their way back from injury. Moore is close to fully recovered from his strained oblique muscle but likely won't be back in the lineup before the weekend at the earliest.
"It's still going to be sore for a while there. I've just to keep pushing it," Moore said. "You've got to push it to the point where you know it's good."
Jacob Markstrom entered training camp poised to develop from the Florida Panthers' goaltender of the future into their goaltender of the present. But the signing of Tim Thomas shortly before the season, coupled with Markstrom's slowed development, led the Panthers to assign the 23-year-old to their American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio.
Markstrom, who hasn't won a game since Oct. 11, is 1-5-3 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .877 save percentage. Despite getting the start in a 3-2 loss on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, Tim Thomas will be back between the pipes against the New York Rangers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
The 2011 first-round pick (No. 15) scored twice in his Madison Square Garden debut on Feb. 7 but hasn't scored since. After opening the 2013-14 season with one assist in nine games, he was made a healthy scratch Monday night in a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
But with New York playing a back-to-back set at home Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and on the road Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Rangers coach Alain Vigneauilt has decided to inject Miller's young legs back in the lineup.
The move couldn't have come at a better time for Miller, who was raised just outside Pittsburgh in suburban Ohio and grew up idolizing the Penguins.
"One of my favorite players was [Alex] Kovalev. I tried to play like him. Him and obviously [Jaromir] Jagr and Mario [Lemieux]. I really looked up to those guys," said Miller, who especially tried to emulate Kovalev's style. "His wrist shot was very special to watch. He scored a lot of goals with that. It was great to watch that guy."
NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed some extra energy during their pregame skate Wednesday heading into a divisional matchup against the rival New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2). Some of that extra jump came courtesy of a standout player rejoining the team following a long absence.
All-Star forward James Neal skated in part of the morning skate, mostly participating in conditioning drills. Neal hasn't played since Oct. 3, when he skated 3:49 against the New Jersey Devils and left with an upper-body injury.
Neal, along with injured forward Beau Bennett, stayed on the ice after practice to continue conditioning work, with Neal joking as he walked to the Penguins locker room that he needed a stretcher following the intense workout.
Bennett, out since Oct. 12 due to a lower-body injury, could be back as soon as the weekend; there remains no timetable for Neal's return.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged the mere presence of these players trying to work their way back was uplifting.
"James in particular," Bylsma said. "We've missed both those guys for extended periods of times. Having James on the ice, even in small quantities this morning, there was a lot of jump in a lot of guys' step seeing James out there."
NEW YORK -- The last time they played the Anaheim Ducks, on Oct. 10, the New York Rangers closed a three-game stint in California with a 6-0 loss in which they were outplayed badly. Coupled with a 9-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks two nights earlier, the Rangers' season was off to a tough start.
Four weeks later neither team is expecting a repeat of that one-sided affair as the Rangers host the Ducks on Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS).
"I think we had to learn from it," Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "We had to learn what we were doing wrong and realize not all of us were playing the way we need to play for our team to be successful. It was embarrassing and woke us up."
Callahan has not played since breaking his thumb blocking a shot in a 2-0 win against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 16.
"It is 100 percent. It feels good," Callahan said. "The last couple of days of shooting have gone well. It has reacted well. Wednesday is three weeks [since the injury] and that is what we were aiming at. It's ready to go."
The New York Rangers showed no mercy against a Buffalo Sabres team that came into Madison Square Garden on Thursday having lost five of its previous six games. The Rangers pounced, firing 38 shots at Ryan Miller through the first two periods on their way to a 2-0 win.
The Rangers are hoping to have the same jump Saturday night against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, who have lost four straight games after dropping a 3-1 decision against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
The Rangers did not play Friday and held an optional skate Saturday.
"That is one of our keys for tonight. Carolina played last night and they travelled," Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson told the Rangers website. "So we want to come out in full speed and come out as fast as possible."
Just two weeks earlier his wife Alicia had given birth to the couple's second child, a son they named George. With a 14-month-old daughter already in the mix, Moulson was forced to leave his young and growing family. And a quick look at the Sabres' schedule revealed Moulson wouldn't be back to play against the Islanders on Long Island until March 15.
But there was a game prior that would give Moulson an opportunity to say goodbye one last time to friends while spending extra time with his family.
"When I got traded I was on the computer checking the schedule about two seconds later," Moulson said. "It was good to see that this game was so close to the trade. I knew I would be coming back and be able to see them."
NEW YORK -- It's been a long time coming, but the New York Rangers are ready for their home opener Monday against the Montreal Canadiens. It may have taken a month and nine regular-season games, but the Rangers admitted there was extra energy being home at Madison Square Garden, which underwent the final stages of a $1 billion makeover that necessitated the long road trip.
"I think everybody has been waiting for this day for a long time. It's great to be here," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We had a good meeting this morning. The guys are ready."
NEW YORK --New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said Monday he isn't feeling any ill effects from the undisclosed injury that forced him to miss the past two games. After being considered day-to-day with the nagging ailment, he was looking forward to getting back in the crease for the Rangers, who host their home opener against the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, RDS).
"I feel good. I feel really good," Lundqvist said. "Now it's just about getting out there and playing well and stopping the puck and helping the team to get wins and take off."
The Rangers fared well in their franchise goaltender's absence, with backup and recent American Hockey League call-up Cam Talbot posting a 1-1-0 record against the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings while posting a 1.94 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
Following his first preseason game as the Colorado Avalanche's coach, Patrick Roy said he saw plenty of positives in his team's 2-1 loss Wednesday night to the Anaheim Ducks. He called it a "good step in the right direction" and lauded the team's 5-on-5 play. But no one earned more praise than 18-year-old defenseman Chris Bigras.
"There's nothing I didn't like [about his play]. Even when he was in trouble, he found a way to get back," Roy said on Thursday. "He's pretty amazing. I'm overwhelmed by him right now."
BROOKLYN, NY --New York Islanders star John Tavares enjoyed quite a summer. Shortly after enjoying the first playoff action of his NHL career, the All-Star center was named a finalist for the Hart Memorial trophy as the League's most valuable player. He came up short in that contest, but was later invited to Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp in August.
But the greatest honor bestowed upon the 22-year-old this summer may have come shortly before training camp, when the Islanders named him the 14th captain in franchise history. The move, necessitated by former captain Mark Streit's signing with the Philadelphia Flyers, cast an even greater spotlight on the Islanders' franchise player. But Tavares made it clear as camp opened that he wasn't planning on changing his approach to the game just because he has a C stitched above his heart.
BROOKLYN -- It won't technically be their home until the 2015-16 season, but after enjoying the first skate of their 2013-14 training camp at Barclays Center, the New York Islanders' players were impressed by what they saw from the new state-of-the-art facility, which will host the first-ever NHL game in Brooklyn when the Islanders play the New Jersey Devils in a preseason contest Sept. 21.
The Islanders take part in their first practice
at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.(Click to enlarge)
"It definitely feels really new. It will be an adjustment to make it feel comfortable and make it feel right at home. But it's a beautiful place," said captain John Tavares, who wasn't sure what the energy would be like for the upcoming preseason game. "I think it will feel like a neutral-site game, because the Coliseum is our home for a couple more years and we don't have a locker room here yet. But it will be nice to play the game for sure and get a feeling of what it will be like."
The team took a train together to the arena along the Long Island Railroad and seemed impressed by the amenities the new building offered. Holding 15,813 fans at full capacity, the building also features a new 32-foot-by-15-foot scoreboard that is among the biggest in North American arenas. And there will be even more awaiting the Islanders when they move into Barclays in 2015, as the arena is adding a new 11,000-square-foot campus offering full amenities for players and staff.
"It's great. We didn't really know what to expect. I hadn't seen the rink yet. I was looking forward to getting down here and seeing it. You can tell it's going to be a great atmosphere," forward Josh Bailey said. "The seats are right on top of you. It makes for a heck of an atmosphere. The fans are going to love it and the players are going to love playing here."
BROOKLYN -- Following his first time out on the ice as a member of the New York Islanders, right wing Cal Clutterbuck admitted that he was still getting to know most of his new teammates.
Taking a train on the Long Island Railroad to Barclays Center, which will host the team's Sept. 21 preseason game against the New Jersey Devils, gave him a unique chance to grow better acquainted with the team. But the 25-year-old, who spent his first five NHL seasons with the Minnesota Wild, said he was still getting used to being an Islander.
"It's a long way from St. Paul, Minnesota, that's for sure," Clutterbuck said. "Getting on a train and coming down to the station with that many people. You don't see that many people in an entire week down in Minnesota. It's a little different, but there's definitely some nervous energy when you get out there the first day. You get used to one thing for five or six years and then it's a lot different when it changes."
BROOKLYN -- The New York Islanders enjoyed a unique start to their 2013 training camp, as they boarded a Long Island Railroad train from Long Island. Their final destination Thursday morning was the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the building scheduled to become their new home in 2015. It will host the team's preseason game on Sept. 21 against the New Jersey Devils, the first-ever NHL game played in Brooklyn.
Upon their arrival in Brooklyn, the players and coaches received a particularly warm greeting.
"First and foremost, welcome to your new home. We're thrilled to have all of you with us today," Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark told the team. "Congratulations to you on a great last season. I'm sure you're going to replicate that effort this season."
Veteran forward Jamal Mayers didn't dress for the Chicago Blackhawks during their playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final, where they defeated the Boston Bruins in six games. But the Toronto native's leadership in his quest to win the Cup for the first time proved crucial even if he didn't get to play.
That leadership was rewarded Wednesday when the 38-year-old enjoyed his day with the Stanley Cup in St. Louis, the adopted hometown where Mayers spent his first nine NHL seasons.
Chicago Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough spent 24 years working for the Chicago Cubs before joining the Blackhawks in 2007. So it seems somehow appropriate McDonough would take the Stanley Cup to the park where he grew up playing Little League baseball.
That's what happened Saturday, when for the second time in three years McDonough brought the most iconic trophy in sports to a public event held at Brooks Park in the Edison Park neighborhood of northern Chicago.
The move surprised many, but it made Bolland's day with the Stanley Cup on Thursday extra special -- one of the newest members of the Maple Leafs got to bring the iconic trophy to Toronto.
The day proved to be a whirlwind for the center, who also brought the Cup to Toronto when he won it with Chicago in 2010. The highlight was a parade through the streets of the Toronto neighborhood of Mimico, where Bolland grew up. Through a crowd conspicuously made up of Maple Leafs fans, Bolland, in a blue t-shirt and riding atop a fire truck, carried the trophy through town.
"Having some fun today, trying to enjoy it," Bolland said, according to the Toronto Star. "It’s great to bring it back and have fun with the crowd. Whenever we bring the Cup, it’s always a good time. It’s a bunch of hardworking people who like to have fun."
As president of the Wirtz Corp. and chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks, Rocky Wirtz is certainly entitled to his time with the Stanley Cup. The man responsible for overseeing all aspects of the club's day-to-day operations, Wirtz enjoyed a two-day, three-city trip with the Cup and fit in as many activities as possible.
Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen grew up in Newmarket, Ontario, about 30 miles north of Toronto. He even spent close to a decade as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs. So it was quite a triumphant return for Kitchen on Sunday when he brought the Stanley Cup to his hometown for an eventful day of giving back to the local community.
The morning started with a parade taking Kitchen and the Cup through the streets of nearby Schomberg. The victory procession delivered Kitchen and the Cup to the Trisan Center, home of the minor hockey organization that the longtime NHL assistant first became involved with as a child.
WINNIPEG -- It seemed only fitting that the NHL released its 2013-14 schedule on the same day Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews brought the Stanley Cup to his hometown.
The League's realignment for the upcoming season moves the Winnipeg Jets into the Central Division alongside Toews' Blackhawks. Chicago's Nov. 2 visit to MTS Centre will be Toews' first game in Winnipeg as an NHL player. It's a game he's already looking forward to.
WINNIPEG -- When Jonathan Toews brought the Stanley Cup to Winnipeg in the summer of 2010, the city renamed the Dakota Community Center in his honor. Friday, when the Chicago Blackhawks captain brought the Cup to the arena that now bears his name, he may have received an even greater honor.
In front of hundreds of locals clamoring for an opportunity to meet Toews and see the Cup, Chicago's star center was introduced by another Winnipeg hockey legend. Longtime Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen, who now serves as a city councilor in the area, did not mince words as he welcomed Toews to the stage.
"You are making everybody here proud," Steen told the two-time Cup winner in front of the cheering crowd. "Many young kids come here filled with the same dreams you once had and can sit in the same locker room carrying the same dreams."
On the day the city of Winnipeg welcomed back prodigal son Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks captain made sure to take time to give back to the city's children.
During his day with the Stanley Cup in Winnipeg, Toews started it with a special appearance with city officials at the local Canadian Tire department store. In a presentation outside the storefront, Toews gave out complementary Blackhawks t-shirts to the children in attendance before answering some questions.
One curious boy got a nice cheer from the partisan crowd after asking Toews which team he would want to play for other than Chicago.
Travelers lucky enough to be passing through the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg on Friday morning were greeted by a surprise. It was there that Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews -- flanked by family, friends and local police -- welcomed the Stanley Cup to the city for Toews' visit with the trophy.
After spending the previous day with Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw in Belleville, Ontario, the Cup made its way to Winnipeg along with the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which Toews was awarded last month as the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Moments after lifting the Cup from its protective case and posing for some photographs, Toews was greeted by a spontaneous eruption of cheers from people throughout the airport. Not a bad start to two days with the trophy.
NEWARK, N.J. --Jordan Subban acknowledged that his parents had to wait longer for his name to be called than when his older brothers were drafted.
Eldest brother P.K. was taken in the second round of the 2007 NHL Draft, while middle brother Malcolm was selected in the second round last year.
But despite having to wait until the 115th pick Sunday to hear his name called by the Vancouver Canucks, the youngest Subban, a defenseman, feels he's fallen into a great situation.
"Obviously I was hoping to go a little bit earlier, but it doesn't matter how long you wait. I've waited 18 years for this day," Subban said. "I'm just ecstatic that I've been given this opportunity to be part of an NHL organization. Being a Canadian team is the cherry on top."
With just over four minutes remaining in the first period, Bruins forward Shawn Thornton's shot deflected up and into Shaw's eye. The 21-year-old lay prone on the ice favoring his eye as blood poured onto the ice and the TD Garden crowd grimaced at replays of the injury.
Shaw quickly made his way to the Chicago dressing room, where he absorbed more stitches than he could keep track of before returning to the bench for the second period. He barely missed a shift.
BOSTON -- After the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, they managed to retain their entire roster and much of their coaching staff for this season. One of their only defections was assistant coach Jamie Kompon, who left the Kings to join the Chicago Blackhawks.
A year later, Kompon is the only person who can claim the distinction of being a two-time defending Stanley Cup champion. The Blackhawks defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2 Monday in Game 6 to wrap up the Final.
"We had a great team effort from the onset, working back with Joel [Quenneville] and [assistant coach Mike Kitchen]. 'Getting the band back together' as we called it," Kompon told NHL.com. "It was instant chemistry. That chemistry carried on with the team. They responded unbelievably. Their resilience and attitude, it was phenomenal."
BOSTON -- Two days after leaving Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago with an injury that necessitated a trip to the hospital, Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron is expected to play in Game 6 on Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
Bergeron did not take part in the team's morning skate Monday, but it's likely he'll be on the ice when the puck drops.
"Patrice will dress for warm-up tonight and I'm feeling confident that he will play," Bruins coach Claude Julien said following the team's morning skate.
BOSTON -- With all the huge plays he has made through his career, it's hard to believe that Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is still only 24 years old. Indeed, he was only 21 in 2010 when he scored one of the wildest -- and most unusual -- Cup-winning overtime goals in NHL history.
He has added to that resume of big goals since then, particularly in the past two weeks. So with all that history on his side, it's no wonder the hockey world will have at least one eye on Kane when he takes the ice with a chance to clinch a Stanley Cup championship Monday in Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) at TD Garden.
"You know, we were just kind of talking about that. I don't know, I think the stars would have to be aligned right for it to happen like that again," Kane said Sunday afternoon shortly after the team arrived in Boston. "I think the biggest thing is trying to help contribute any way I can. Help this team get a win, especially the situation we're in. We have a great opportunity. I'll do whatever I can to help the team win, and it would be a great feeling."
BOSTON -- Most NHL players go their entire careers without coming within a single victory of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
But heading into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS), that's where the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves as they lead the Boston Bruins 3-2 in their best-of-7 series.
Eight players from the current Chicago team were in Philadelphia on June 9, 2010, when they held a 3-2 series lead on the Philadelphia Flyers in the Cup Final and wrapped up the series with forward Patrick Kane's overtime winner. The wisdom gained from that game and the calmness it inspires in the Blackhawks are huge asset three years later.
"It's a similar feeling, especially having the series tied 2-2 and taking Game 5 at home and coming on the road for Game 6. But, you have to be careful," Kane said Sunday. "Even a couple of years ago, Boston was down 3-2, they won at home and then won game 7 in Vancouver. This team is capable of coming back. For us, I know it's a big game, but you want to play like it's any other game."
BOSTON -- In a Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins that has been flush with indelible moments, there might not be a more surreal sight than that of 6-foot-9 Bruins captain Zdeno Chara riding his bicycle to and from practice.
It's a regular routine for one of the League's premier defenseman, who first fell in love with bicycling as a child when his father helped train cycling teams in their native Slovakia. Among the League's best-conditioned athletes, Chara is dedicated to his cycling regimen.
"He's been riding more than me lately. I think it's pretty fun," said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, himself a big cycling enthusiast. "During the offseason, it definitely has helped us with our training and whatnot. Both him and I like to take it to an extreme, as far as what kind of hills we're climbing."
BOSTON -- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien admitted he wasn't a very happy man the morning after his team's 6-5 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 that squared the Stanley Cup Final at two games apiece heading back to United Center for Game 5 Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
But despite a loss in which their defense appeared uncharacteristically porous, Julien and his troops came away with some positives. Most notably, the Bruins' ability to come back from several deficits.
"We scored five goals. We should be happy with that," Julien said before the team boarded a flight to Chicago on Thursday. "The goals that we gave a lot of times were just guys not being in the right place where they should have been. Instead of stopping in our positions, we did a lot of curling last night, which is usually a sign of our team struggling."
BOSTON -- Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday at TD Garden, in which the Chicago Blackhawks topped the Boston Bruins 6-5 in overtime, was an exciting back-and-forth affair that will go down as one for the ages.
The prior time a Stanley Cup Final game was decided by a 6-5 score in overtime, the New York Islanders defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the 1982 Final. But the Blackhawks don't have to look too far back to recall the lst 6-5 non-overtime game in the Final.
It was in Game 1 of the 2010 Final, when Chicago topped the Philadelphia Flyers, setting the stage for a wild series the Blackhawks would win in six games. Following Game 4 in Boston, some Blackhawks players from that 2010 Cup team started recalling the similar game against the Flyers.
"We've had some back-and-forth games. Game 1 in the 2010 Final in Philly was a similar kind of story," said forward Patrick Sharp, who scored Chicago's third goal in that 2010 game. "I know [Chicago coach] Joel [Quenneville] probably had a high heart rate there. Probably wasn't too happy with the chances we were giving up. But at the end of the day, I'm sure he's proud of the way we competed and battled and fought for each other."
BOSTON -- Throughout the day Wednesday, heading into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden, the expectation was that forward Marian Hossa would return to the Chicago Blackhawks lineup, even when he skipped the morning skate after being a surprise scratch in Game 3 on Monday. Hossa, however, didn't make the decision he was good to go until moments before the puck dropped.
Regardless of when he got the green light to play, Hossa's return gave the Blackhawks a noticeable boost in a 6-5 overtime win against the Boston Bruins that evened the best-of-7 series at two games apiece. Perhaps just as important, it gave Chicago coach Joel Quenneville some much-needed flexibility with his lineup.
"I felt so-so, but the decision was for me to play and I'm glad I could help a little bit," Hossa said. "We have a couple of days off so it's nice, but we have to be ready for the next game [Saturday]."
BOSTON -- After opening the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs with four points in his first 16 games, Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin is getting hot at the perfect time. Entering Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) at TD Garden with his Bruins leading the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1, Seguin is riding a three-game point streak, his longest such run in two months.
The 21-year-old also has set up Boston's two game-winning goals in that time, both of which were scored by Daniel Paille, the latest addition to a recently-formed line featuring Seguin and center Chris Kelly. By his own admission, Seguin is playing his best hockey of the postseason.
"It feels good. I feel like I'm working hard," Seguin said. "I feel like I just wanted to work a lot smarter in this series. Focus on little things. I think that my line has definitely raised their game in this series."
Seguin's improved play has been sparked in part by teaming with Paille, whose speed has complimented Seguin's game nicely. But it was a recent meeting with Bruins coach Claude Julien that helped Seguin understand exactly what the team needed from him. A meeting that a nervous Seguin initiated.
BOSTON -- The Chicago Blackhawks haven't scored a goal in more than 120 minutes of game time and have lost two straight to trail the Boston Bruins 2-1 in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final.
Most teams would be struggling with their confidence after a pair of humbling losses to a streaking Boston team that has won 11 of their last 13 games. But the Blackhawks are not most teams.
Most teams don't open the season with a 21-0-3 streak that was among the best starts to a season in NHL history. Most teams don't come back from a 3-1 series deficit against a Detroit Red Wings team poised to upset the top-seeded, Presidents' Trophy-winning Blackhawks in the Western Conference Semifinals. These Blackhawks have won big games before, and they have all the confidence in the world that they can do it again.
"It kind of gives you confidence. But to be honest with you, what happened in the regular season is a long time ago," forward Patrick Sharp said. "We certainly feel proud of what we accomplished, we feel like we deserve to be where we are and we can draw on past experience."
BOSTON -- Having already competed in 38 Stanley Cup Playoff games in just three NHL seasons, Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin has had plenty of ups and downs in his young career. So you can't really blame him for his demonstrative celebration after setting up Daniel Paille's overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
After Paille beat Corey Crawford to even up the best-of-7 series, Seguin swung his arm around emphatically before throwing himself into the wild Boston celebratory scrum. It's a new goal celebration that inspired laughter from one of his toughest critics.
"My little sister kind of made fun of me for it. At the time, you don't know what you're doing. I was just excited and did a windmill hand thing," said Seguin, who was wearing a microphone during the game and was caught using some salty language following the winning goal. "She just thought it was hilarious. Obviously, I told her I never swear."
For Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, there will be a little more than bragging rights on the line when the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins drop the puck Wednesday for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
In a show of friendly competition, the governors placed a well-intentioned wager on the outcome of the series. Under terms of the bet, the losing team's state governor will spend a day volunteering at a food bank of the winning governor's choice. If the Bruins win, Quinn will work at the Greater Boston Food Bank. If the Blackhawks win, Patrick will volunteer at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
"Gov. Patrick is skating on thin ice by betting against the mighty Chicago Blackhawks," Quinn said in a statement. "But the Greater Chicago Food Depository can always use extra help, so after he works a shift there, I'm happy to take Gov. Patrick to the United Center to see the Stanley Cup return home."
NEW YORK -- In a regular season that saw the Boston Bruins demonstrate a variety of strengths, third-period scoring wasn't exactly one of them. Boston's 39 third-period goals during the season ranked them 19th in the League and they posted an even third-period goal differential. They also posted a 15-4-4 record when leading after two periods, good for a .652 win percentage that ranked 29th.
That alarming trend continued in their opening-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, where Boston was outscored 6-5 in the third period and overtime through the series' first six games. But that suddenly changed with the Bruins facing elimination in Game 7, as they scored three times in the third and again in overtime to win it. Since that memorable run, the team has since outscored its opposition 10-3 in the third and overtime.
"I think the biggest criticism for our team was we weren't getting a lot of goals in the third period late in the season," forward Daniel Paille said. "We really wanted to try to fix that. We've done a good job of that in this series, but every game is different."
NEW YORK -- After he scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 of the Boston Bruins' Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, it's fair to say that Daniel Paille's friends and family were thrilled for the forward's big moment on the biggest of stages. But one of Paille's closest friends wasn't so thrilled about the game's final score.
That would be Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, whose team now faces a steep 3-0 series deficit heading into Thursday's Game 4 at Madison Square Garden. The pair grew up in Welland, Ontario and started playing hockey together as eight-year-olds. They were also junior hockey teammates with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League and even served as the best man at each other's weddings, along with friend and former Ranger Andre Deveaux.
With all that history, Paille doesn't see his recent success at Girardi's expense putting a strain on their relationship.
"I'll see after the series," Paille told NHL.com. "I'm sure when this series is done we'll have a good talk and see how things were during the series. For now we both know it's all about business."
NEW YORK -- Shortly after a brief morning practice heading into Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins were expecting a desperate effort from an opponent looking to avoid a series sweep.
NEW YORK -- On a team known for its remarkable consistency, the Boston Bruins benefited in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New York Rangers from a trio not known for filling the net.
In a 2-1 win Tuesday, Boston's fourth line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille accounted for both goals in an unexpected show of offensive flair. Thornton's two assists in the game doubled his career point total accumulated over 76 previous Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Even if offensive outbursts like the one they had in Game 3 aren't an every-game occurrence, the Bruins' fourth line has been known to set the tone for the rest of their team, thanks mostly to their contagious energy and physicality.
"When those guys come up large for us, it really ignites our dressing room. Guys are really happy for them," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "In a team sport, sometimes you have players that have more attention than others. These guys don't get the attention they probably deserve on a lot of occasions. So when they get that opportunity, everyone kind of rallies around them."
NEW YORK -- After contending with a depleted defensive unit for the entirety of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien could be getting some help in the near future.
Veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden, neither of whom has dressed for the series against New York, participated in an optional skate Wednesday. Julien sounded encouraged by their performance in practice.
"Every day they're better. That's progress," said Julien, who gave no word on whether either player would be available for Game 4 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; CNBC. RDS, TSN). "That decision will be made [Thursday]. I like the direction both those guys are going in now, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."
Now, down 2-0 to the Boston Bruins entering Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), the Rangers will need that hometown advantage if they hope to get back in this series.
Just don't ask them to explain their remarkable record at home.
"Really, I don't know. It confuses me why some pucks go in at home when they don't go in in certain situations on the road. Who knows why?" Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I think today's game is a lot different from back in the '70s, when there was a real distinct advantage to playing at home. I don't think there is [an advantage today]. But there must be. The record shows it."
In 13 regular-season games with New York, he had five goals and 11 points. He then added nine points in the final five games of the Rangers' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, helping them rally past the Washington Capitals.
With New York down 2-0 in their conference semifinal series with the Boston Bruins heading into Game 3 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), Brassard may have his most difficult task yet: Bringing the Rangers' dormant power play back to life.
Brassard briefly played the point on the Rangers' first power-play unit in Game 2 and continued to practice his point play with New York's defensemen in an optional skate held Tuesday morning. It's not the first time he's quarterbacked his team's power play, but he admits the dynamic of playing the point with the man-advantage is a significant change from playing down low.
NEW YORK -- Defenseman Marc Staal and forward Darroll Powe, neither of whom has played for the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Boston Bruins, were among 14 players who participated in an optional team skate Tuesday. However, it remains unlikely either will play in Game 3 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Staal played 17:17 in New York's 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series but has not played since. Following an optional skate that wasn't overly strenuous, Staal's locker stall remained mostly empty.
Powe hasn't played since a collision with Washington's Joel Ward in Game 3.
"I feel good," Powe said. "It's good to be back out on the ice skating with the guys. I'm just trying to do skating, work out and try to get back in the lineup. It's all part of the process, just getting back on the ice and playing hockey again. That's where I'm at right now."
NEW YORK -- In the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals' evened-up Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Capitals hold a slim 12-11 scoring advantage in what has been the closest series so far of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two games have ended overtime and most contests have been decided by the slightest of bounces.
Heading into Game 7 Monday night in Washington, that likely means that one player's bad bounce could mean the difference between advancing to the second round and going home for the summer.
That was the case in Sunday's Game 6, as Derick Brassard's point shot deflected off the glove of Capitals rookie Steve Oleksy and into the Capitals’ net. That one bad bounce would be the deciding play in New York's 1-0 victory.
Sporting mostly the same lineup that has given the team a 3-2 series lead, Oates acknowledged that the Capitals' chances of closing out this opening-round series could hinge on the opening moments in front of what figures to be a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd.
"Obviously it's their building. They're going to feel good in front of their home crowd. We need a good start to get into the game," Oates said. "We expect them to come hard. We just need to handle all the decisions you need to make early to get into the game. We can't give them any more ammo."
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- With the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins tied 2-2 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the underdog New York Islanders, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma decided it was time to make changes to his lineup. Fortunately for him, his team's deep roster included the kind of veteran players any team would want.
The big move was naming veteran backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun the team's starter for Game 5 on Thursday in Pittsburgh. The switch was made after regular starter Marc-Andre Fleury struggled badly in Pittsburgh's 6-4 Game 4 loss.
For any team, naming a new starting goaltender midway through a Stanley Cup Playoff series would be controversial. But not every team has a backup goaltender with 300 career NHL wins under his belt.
Vokoun made 31 saves for the shutout in Pittsburgh's Game 5 win and will start again for the Penguins in Game 6 Saturday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
"Throughout this season for us, he's been a guy who, not only in the games but off the ice as well, has been a leader," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of Vokoun. "When he's gotten in there, he tends to have a calming influence with how he plays and dictates the game. He's been that for us and I thought in Game 5 he gave that for our team."
But coach Dan Bylsma made it very clear before Game 6 here Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) he had no intention of bringing their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series back to Pittsburgh for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday.
"That is our mentality. We don't have six periods, we just have three," Bylsma said following the team's morning skate Saturday. "The fourth game is the hardest to win and we expect the very best from their team [Saturday]. We have to be ready for that."
NEW YORK -- As in any series, the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers has come down to the play of both teams' starting goaltenders. Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby have come up with remarkable saves at the timeliest of moments, but when it comes to one aspect of this series, which Washington leads 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Wednesday (NBCSN, TSN, RDS2), Holtby does hold one sizeable advantage over the defending Vezina Trophy winner.
Against an aggressive Rangers team that has been keyed by its energetic forecheck, Holtby's puck-handling skills have been vital to the Capitals' potent breakout. While Lundqvist never has been known for playing the puck, Holtby occasionally has seen fit to fire a two-line pass down the wing, squashing any opportunities for the Rangers to set up in the Capitals' zone.
"It's been huge," defenseman Mike Green said of Holtby's puck-handling. "He's been great at it all year. Especially being a defenseman, it really helps out. It's another utility that we can use. Also, we don't have to go back and pick up pucks behind the net. He's making plays. Not many goalies can do that. It's impressive."
NEW YORK -- After being limited to nine games this season and dealing with an aggravation of an injury that held him out of the first two months of the 2012-13 season, Brooks Laich's first practice in over a month didn't get off to a smooth start.
The Washington Capitals forward, who hasn't played since April 4, lost an edge and stumbled into the boards at the beginning of the team's morning skate prior to Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers, which the Capitals lead 2-1.
Laich and his teammates got a nice chuckle out of the fall.
"That was the first contact I've taken in a while. It felt good to get into that," Laich said following the skate. "It was a bit of a wake-up call, maybe. The guys had a good laugh at it. I had a good laugh at it too."
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Neither wing James Neal nor defenseman Brooks Orpik accompanied the Pittsburgh Penguins for the team's pre-game warmups prior to Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the New York Islanders. Their absence means they will not dress for the game and that Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will stick to mostly the same lineup that fell 4-3 to the Islanders in Game 2 at Consol Energy Center Friday night.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders haven't played a home playoff game since 2007, so you can hardly blame the team's fans for lining up outside Nassau Coliseum at 7 a.m. for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Just one problem: the parking lot didn't open until 8 a.m.
Hours before puck drop, there was still a modest turnout in the parking lot, with loyal fans enjoying what would be an abbreviated tailgate experience before the early noon ET start. Even before ticketholders were allowed in the building, there was a palpable buzz throughout the arena.
"It's going to be sick," one young security guard said.
"I don't think I've ever seen it this busy," one usher said to another as spectators started to file into the building.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, who is nursing a lower-body injury and has not played since April 23, participated without equipment in solo skating and puck-handling drills with Pittsburgh strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar for at least 30 minutes prior to Pittsburgh's Sunday matinee against the New York Islanders.
Orpik didn't appear to show any major strain or discomfort in the drill but his status remains uncertain for Game 3 of Pittsburgh's Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Islanders. While Orpik skated, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma refused to divulge any information about his lineup, only saying that the game's 12 pm E.T. start (NBC) would not affect his players or his decisions.
"Obviously no morning skate today. But we have and do play a fair amount of odd-timed games," Bylsma said. "This is as early as you get, but we're somewhat accustomed to playing games at a different time."
Pittsburgh saw the return of captain Sidney Crosby on Friday in a 4-3 loss Friday in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Consol Energy Center. And while Crosby scored twice in his first game action since March 30, the team was still without Orpik and James Neal, who played a bit more than eight minutes in Game 1 against the Islanders before leaving with a suspected ankle injury.
Byslma would not comment on the status of either player.
More will be known about the status of these players - as well as forward Joe Vitale, who has been out since April 20 with a lower-body injury - closer to game time.
Just to have some fun with the press, Neal pretended to use a hockey stick as a crutch and walked with a mock limp as he passed by members of the media prior to Bylsma's press conference.
Any line featuring a captain partnered with the squad's leading scorer and one of the NHL's fastest skaters would be looked to for scoring and leadership on every shift. But for the New York Rangers' top line of captain Ryan Callahan, leading scorer Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin -- who won the Bridgestone Fastest Skater competition at the 2012 All-Star Game -- a good start has been just as critical as a good finish.
NEW YORK -- With a long offseason awaiting the New Jersey Devils after the season finale Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, coach Peter DeBoer was adamant his team wouldn't be a pushover against the New York Rangers.
As for their rivals from across the Hudson River, New York clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth Thursday and are jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference.
"We came to win the game. You just want to finish the right way," DeBoer said Saturday. "I think we have enough professionalism that I don't see that being an issue. The big thing we've talked about is not letting our play drop because of the situation we're in. We've played some very good hockey the last three weeks."
NEW YORK -- Last summer the New York Rangers' season ended against the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They now have an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge, as they can eliminate the Devils from postseason contention with a win Sunday at Madison Square Garden (3 p.m. ET, NBC).
They'll go about doing that by icing the same lineup that has scored 14 goals in the past two games, including a franchise-record five goals in a span of 2:58 Friday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals on 28 shots in Buffalo, but he will be back in the crease Sunday for his eleventh straight start. Before the Rangers' 8-4 win Friday, Lundqvist had allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of his past 15 games.
NEW YORK -- With his team slated to play three games in four nights heading into the final stretch of the regular season, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella confirmed that forward Brian Boyle would not be in the lineup for any of those contests, starting with Thursday's home matchup against the Florida Panthers.
Replacing Boyle will be 21-year-old Chris Kreider, who the Rangers called up Wednesday from Connecticut of the American Hockey League. In the past month, Tortorella has voiced his reluctance to stifle the development of players such as Kreider and prospect JT Miller, both of whom have seen action with the Rangers this season. But in the end, he saw Kreider's speed as an asset for his team.
"There were a number of players we talked about [calling up]. What we settled on was his speed," Tortorella said. "I'm still not crazy about bringing a kid here. We felt with his assets, his speed especially, that's what we would go with."
Boyle was ruled out for Thursday's game with a leg injury. In 17 games with the Rangers this season, Kreider has two goals and three points.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Since the beginning of the NHL season, forward Chris Kreider has had three separate stints with the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League. But after being called up Wednesday, Kreider is excited to be back with the New York Rangers in April.
It was around this time last season the Boston College product saw his first NHL action, contributing five goals in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games as the Rangers advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. After collecting three points in 17 games this season, Kreider would love nothing more than to make a similar contribution in the postseason.
"I think it was around this time that I got that opportunity," Kreider said following Thursday's optional team skate. "That being said, it's an entirely different situation. I'm looking forward to trying to seize that opportunity."
Sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference with 48 points entering Wednesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs have put themselves in a favorable position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.
And with each game growing more and more important as the season winds down, playoff experience is proving important for a team that doesn't have a lot of it.
One of the League's youngest teams, Toronto has 15 players on its roster who have never played in an NHL playoff game. And for the two players who have seen postseason action in the past two years -- James van Riemsdyk and Cody Franson -- there's an implicit understanding of how important Wednesday's game will be against the Rangers, who sit eighth in the East with 42 points.
"[Games] always get tight going towards the end of the season. Teams are trying to make a push or hold a spot. We're trying to put ourselves in a good position," said Franson, who saw playoff action in 2011 with the Nashville Predators. "You're going to see a lot of one-goal games coming down the stretch. That's just the way it's going to be. We're prepared for that."
Coming off a 4-3 loss Monday night against a Toronto Maple Leafs squad that has given teams trouble with its aggressive forecheck, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella on Wednesday stressed the importance of his team being stronger in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
"We need to defend better. Certainly around our net," Tortorella said before the rematch at Madison Square Garden. "Our D have moved away from our net. So we need to straighten that out."
When he joins the team, Jokinen, who is expected to skate with the team Thursday, will take Sidney Crosby's spot centering Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. When Crosby eventually returns from a broken jaw that is expected to keep him out for the rest of the regular season, 30-year-old Jokinen is expected to find a new role.
"Obviously, getting healthy would leave different options available," Bylsma said before Wednesday's game. "You could see him playing on a fourth line and filling specific roles on your team, be it the faceoff or the power play. There are different options that he can fulfill at a point in time when you get everyone healthy.
"[He is] a guy I always circle as one of the guys you need to pay attention to on the other team. A guy who is versatile, plays center, plays wing, plays both special teams, takes faceoffs."
Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien coached two full seasons and parts of two others with the Pittsburgh Penguins. After being promoted from coach of the team's American Hockey League team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he led the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final and helped to groom a young core that eventually won it all in 2009 without him.
Facing his former team for the first time Saturday in Montreal, the coach of the first-place Canadiens was able to look back fondly on his time with the Penguins.
"I really enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh," Therrien said following the team's morning skate. "We loved the city and the fans. But we have to move on. I have a new challenge here in Montreal."
The team revealed following practice on Sunday that the 20-year-old rookie suffered the concussion while being checked into the boards by Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Gallagher was feeling fine Sunday but would be held out of the game Monday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Gallagher opened the scoring Saturday night with his fifth goal of the season, tying him with Rene Bourque for second on the Canadiens. Two other players who left the game early with injuries, wing Max Pacioretty and defenseman Alexei Emelin, both returned to practice Sunday morning after sustaining upper-body injuries.
Therrien also revealed that backup goaltender Peter Budaj would get his second straight start Monday. Budaj filled in Saturday for starter Carey Price, who has been sidelined by an illness.
Two days after being scratched for Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers rookie Chris Kreider is expected to miss the next few days of action because of an injury. According to Jim Cerny of the Rangers' website, Kreider, who did not skate Saturday morning with the team, is expected to be out a few days because of bone chips in his ankle.
It's a difficult end to what has been a frustrating first week of the 2012-13 season for the Massachusetts native. After going pointless in his first three games, Kreider was held out of the game Thursday, sparking speculation he might be assigned to the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Connecticut. To say the least, it's been a disappointing start for the young player who captured the imagination of Rangers fans after scoring five goals during the team's Stanley Cup Playoffs run that ended in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
After scoring twice in 38 games last season, Gomez's tumultuous time in Montreal came to an end, leaving the 2000 Calder Trophy winner a free agent. According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, a number of teams have since inquired about Gomez, including the Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils, where Gomez started his career. After the Carolina Hurricanes were rumored to be looking at the 33-year-old center, the Raleigh News & Observer reported that they are not interested.
It's not always easy to take a man at his word, but businessman Chris Byrne had a good feeling in May when he received an email from Los Angeles Kings governor Tim Leiweke. Based on their correspondence, if everything went according to plan, Byrne, a longtime Kings fan, could be the host of his very own Stanley Cup party.
It started weeks earlier, when the Kings were struggling to secure the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Byrne, whose roofing materials company has had Kings season tickets since the team played at the Great Western Forum, attended an event held by Leiweke. Though the presentation was intended to discuss plans for a football stadium in Los Angeles, the Kings governor spent much of his time talking about his hockey team. Inspired by Leiweke's passion, Byrne sent an email weeks later sharing his love for the Kings. It was a spirited message that included one small request.
"I just ended it with, assuming the Kings win the Cup, he'd make a fan from the beginning very happy if he would bring the Cup to an Irish pub in West Hollywood that we own a little part of," Byrne told NHL.com. "Amazingly enough, he wrote back the next day and said, 'Absolutely.' It's a tribute to that organization."
By the time Leiweke got in touch with Byrne, the Kings had already knocked off the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and had won the first two games in their Western Conference semifinal against the St. Louis Blues. A Kings fan practically since the team's arrival in Los Angeles, Byrne was confident the team could win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. But the 60-year-old wasn't completely sure if the iconic trophy would really make an appearance at his bar, Rock & Reilly's, in West Hollywood.
"They were playing St Louis and I told a guy, 'They're going to sweep St. Louis and win the Cup.' I felt it. After they beat Vancouver, I thought they were the best team there," Byrne said. "Time went by and he [Leiweke] made good on his word. He's a really good guy."
Sure enough, Leiweke came through on the promise he made almost four months earlier when he brought the Stanley Cup to a party held last week at Rock & Reilly's. Team president Luc Robitaille also was on hand.
"I have three girls who grew up watching the Kings. Kristen, my daughter, got her picture taken with Luc near the end of the party," Byrne said. "She told me later on it was the best day of her life."
The Stanley Cup is used to keeping a frantic schedule. But last week was especially busy for the iconic trophy, which shined even brighter in the company of some of Hollywood's biggest stars.
It started with a trip to the set of "Wheel of Fortune," where host and longtime Los Angeles Kings fan Pat Sajak couldn't help but show his excitement when the special guest arrived. For the Stanley Cup, it was just the beginning of a wild week in Hollywood.
After the game-show set, the Cup paid a visit to the production offices of the animated series "South Park." The show's co-creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, posed for photos with the Cup, and before long the entire staff was congregating around the trophy.
But the Cup wasn't reserved just for the film and television industries during its week in Los Angeles.
Considering the Kings share Staples Center with two NBA teams, it seemed only right the NHL team include its neighbors in the festivities. The Cup was first hosted by the Los Angeles Clippers, including some players and coach Vinny Del Negro, before the Los Angeles Lakers got their moment.
Though Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was one of the most prominent team members to pose with the Cup, one of the team's newest players may have enjoyed its presence the most. Though Steve Nash has never tried to hide his love for the Vancouver Canucks, the point guard, who was traded to the Lakers in July, relished his moment with the trophy marking the Kings' championship.
Following appearances at local hospitals and charitable events, the Cup made its way to a pair of parties held by team governor Tim Leiweke and president of business operations Luc Robitaille. In typical Kings style, they welcomed a number of celebrities, including producer Jerry Bruckheimer, broadcasters Ryan Seacrest and Al Michaels, actors Michael Vartan, Michael Rosenbaum and Rita Wilson, as well as former Kings owner Bruce McNall.
It all ended Sunday, when the Cup travelled to Manchester, N.H., for an event held by the Kings' American Hockey League franchise, the Manchester Monarchs. The hundreds of fans in attendance at Verizon Wireless Arena were shocked when Robitaille carried the Cup into the building before making a short presentation.
From Manchester, Robitaille was scheduled to bring the Cup to Quebec, where it will take part in one of its final celebrations before being engraved later in September.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez started the week training at his old stomping grounds and ended it with a Stanley Cup celebration among friends and family.
A former standout for the Miami (Ohio) University Redhawks, Martinez was back at the school's Goggin Ice Center to participate in its week-long pro camp. Along with 19 other former Redhawks, including Andy Greene, Ryan Jones, Tommy Wingels and Andy Miele, Martinez returned to the ice for an intense training regimen overseen by Miami coach Enrico Blasi. But the camp wasn't just an opportunity for Martinez to work out and catch up with old teammates.
As one of only three Redhawks -- along with Dan Boyle and Kevyn Adams -- to win the Cup, Martinez was honored in the ice complex lobby. It was there that a massive portrait, showing Martinez during his college days as well as in his triumphant moment with the Kings, was placed on the wall of the building's entrance.
For the second-year player, the real Cup celebration took place Friday when the trophy arrived at his offseason home in Allen, Texas, about 30 miles north of Dallas.
Martinez received the Cup around 10:30 a.m., after which he and a group of friends and family, including some former Miami teammates, enjoyed lunch at a nearby driving range. From there, the Michigan native held a Cup party at his new home before enjoying dinner at a local restaurant.
For the town of Allen, it's the first time the Cup has been there since making an appearance at a 2009 game of the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League.
While Kings players and coaches have all had their time with the Cup, other members of the organization are awaiting their day. Jeff Solomon, the team's vice president of hockey operations and legal affairs, receives the Cup in San Diego on Saturday, and members of the Kings' training staff will get it in Los Angeles after that.
The Cup's whirlwind summer will end next week with vice president of business operations Luc Robitaille before it is engraved in mid-September with the names of the championship squad.
Thursday was already scheduled to be a big sports day in Utah, with the University of Utah, Utah State University, and Brigham Young University all scheduled to start their college football seasons that day.
But Trevor Lewis' arrival with the Stanley Cup is providing a nice boost for area hockey fans.
A prep hockey star growing up in Salt Lake City, the Kings center became the first Utah native to have his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup. So on his day with the Cup, Lewis decided to bring the trophy back to Salt Lake, where he starred at Brighton High School before joining the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL as a 17-year-old. And for a growing hockey community, it's a very big deal.
Denver Wilson's day with the Stanley Cup in Phoenix on Wednesday wasn't exactly typical. Then again, the Los Angeles Kings' assistant equipment manager took a path to the NHL that wasn't exactly typical either.
While the Cup has spent much of the summer in traditional hockey hotbeds, including Minnesota, Massachusetts and most of Canada, Wilson brought the most iconic trophy in sports to Arizona to honor the hockey community that helped carve his way to the NHL.
It starts with his father, Stan Wilson, who has been the Phoenix Coyotes' equipment manager since 1990, when the club was in Winnipeg. In his career with the franchise, the elder Wilson has worked more than 1,500 NHL games, including a tense five-game Western Conference final last May against his son's Kings.
The journey through Ontario that started more than a week ago with Mike Richards in the westernmost part of the province ended today with former Kings' player and current team scout Alyn McCauley.
Following two days in London with Los Angeles teammates Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter, the Stanley Cup swung over to Eastern Ontario on Saturday for a day with Kings center Brad Richardson in Belleville. The following day in Gananoque with McCauley marked the end of a nine-day journey through the province for the Cup in which it was hosted by seven players before joining the Kings' scout.
What started with a whirlwind tour around town ended with a surprise appearance from a broadcasting legend. It all came together during a day with the Stanley Cup for Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford.
It started at 9 a.m., when Clifford's family and friends were on hand for the Cup's arrival at his family home. After a festive breakfast that included some sips of orange juice from the Cup, Clifford's crew boarded a vintage 1950s-era fire truck for a trip around Ayr, Ontario.
Joined by some children who won a spot on the antique vehicle in a local contest, Clifford spent several hours making a number of stops, including at the grave site of his aunt who passed away during this past NHL season. Following quick stops at local businesses and at the family home of an old friend who had passed away, Clifford made the most iconic trophy in sports available to the public at the North Dumfries Community Complex.
With locals lining up all afternoon for a chance to be photographed with the Cup, there was one last surprise in store for the citizens of Ayr. A local resident, legendary broadcaster Jiggs McDonald, who served as the New York Islanders' play-by-play man for three consecutive Stanley Cup wins, made an appearance, livening up what was already an eventful day for the southwestern Ontario town.
Clifford had one last celebration scheduled in which 150 guests were expected to arrive at his family home.
After enjoying several days moving through Western Canada, the Stanley Cup's nine-day trip through Ontario began Saturday with Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards in Kenora, a town situated much closer to Winnipeg than Toronto.
After a day of travel Sunday, the scene shifted to Garden River on Monday, where Kings rookie Jordan Nolan enjoyed his big day.
The day after Dustin Penner personally escorted the Stanley Cup through his hometown of Winkler, Manitoba for the second time in five years, teammate Mike Richards brought the Cup to a town that had gone more than 100 years without a Cup celebration. And he made sure to pay tribute to the last group of Cup-winners from his hometown of Kenora, Ontario.
The weekend started with Penner -- who first won the Cup with Anaheim in 2007 -- getting his second day with the Cup in his hometown of Winkler, located about 80 miles south of Winnipeg and just minutes from the border with North Dakota. It was there that the Kings winger enjoyed a day of golf with the Cup before taking a limo to a public event hosted by the Southland Mall. Hundreds of locals, some of whom had been camping out for three hours, descended on the mall for a chance to be photographed with Penner and the Cup. With August 17, 2012 officially declared "Dustin Penner Day," it was another special day in Winkler.
Stoll visited two separate rinks, held numerous public events, and ended with a banquet with about 1,100 guests. And all this was between two southeastern Saskatchewan towns -- Neudorf and Yorkton -- separated by about 50 miles. So it's pretty telling that Stoll's first stop of the day was to his grandparents' house.
In fact, Stoll's day with the Cup began with a big hug from his grandmother, Doreen, who hosted a brief party at her home in the morning, along with Stoll's grandfather, Wilbert. The pair has been a huge part of Jarret's upbringing, hosting the entire Stoll clan during holidays and attending many of their grandson's youth games. Before those games, the pair would promise to pay Jarret a dollar for every goal he scored, a proposal that got expensive as Jarret developed into a young hockey star. Jarret even picked his number, 28, because his grandfather was born in 1928.
In a day when hundreds of people shared in Jarret's celebration with the Cup, the Kings forward, who came one win short of a Cup win with the Edmonton Oilers in 2006, made sure to reserve plenty of time with family. There was a photo session featuring the Cup and Stoll's family at an area studio and a constant Stoll family presence throughout the day.
But it all started Thursday morning with a special visit to the home of Wilbert and Doreen Stoll.
With 13 different Los Angeles Kings players and staff members hailing from Ontario, Canada's most populous province will see plenty of the Stanley Cup this summer. But Saskatchewan is getting three days of its own this week with hockey's holy grail, more than any Canadian province other than Ontario.
Not bad for a province with a population of just over 1 million -- and one that went without a Cup visit last summer.
It started Tuesday in Saskatoon, where Kings scout Brent McEwen received the Cup. While McEwen enjoyed plenty of private time with the trophy in his hometown, the real celebration began when he brought it to the University of Saskatchewan's Rutherford Rink, a historic facility that opened in 1929.
As a former hockey player, manager and coach for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, it was the perfect homecoming for McEwen, who also served for seven years as general manager of the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League before joining the Kings in 2004. With McEwen's daughter getting married last Saturday, it was an eventful week for the family.
Bill Ranford won the Stanley Cup twice as a player with the Edmonton Oilers, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1990. But those wins predated the modern tradition entitling members of the Stanley Cup-winning team to a day with the trophy. So when Ranford won another Cup, this time as the Los Angeles Kings' goaltending coach, the town of New Westminster, British Columbia knew it was going to have a big celebration this summer.
Monday was already scheduled to be a big day for the town located in the eastern part of the metro Vancouver area. Anne Callaghan, the United States Consul General, was scheduled to visit the office of Mayor Wayne Wright that day. But when the Cup was delivered to Ranford around noon, Callaghan's visit was likely overshadowed.
Kings' goaltending coach Bill Ranford poses for a photo on his day with the Stanley Cup. (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI)
For his efforts with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who himself won the Conn Smythe for his outstanding play, Ranford received the Cup in the town known as "the Royal City" and immediately enjoyed private time among friends and family. From there, Ranford delivered the Cup around 4 p.m. to the local Queen's Park Arena, where fans had been lined up for three hours to get a chance to see the Cup. A photographer took photos of locals, who got to pose with the Cup in exchange for a small donation to the local hockey program.
After two hours at the arena, Ranford hosted a private party with the Cup, which was scheduled to spend time on Tuesday with Kings scout Brent McEwen in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
To Ranford's credit, this wasn't his first Cup unveiling in New Westminster. In 2004, shortly before coming on as a goaltending coach with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, Ranford lobbied the Hockey Hall of Fame for a day with the Cup. Taking into consideration his two wins as a player, the Hall of Fame gave Ranford and New Westminster their day with the Cup. Eight years later, the pair made a triumphant return to the Royal City.
The day after Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi enjoyed idyllic weather for his day with the Stanley Cup in Ludlow, Mass., defenseman Matt Greene didn't have the same luck when he received the trophy Friday morning in Grand Ledge, Mich.
But despite some torrential rains and a sudden change of schedule, it was still a special day for Greene and his hometown.
The day began with Greene presenting the Cup to a group of local military veterans and emergency services staff in Grand Ledge, located a few miles from the campus of Michigan State University in Lansing. The plan for the afternoon originally called for a parade through town, allowing residents to catch a glimpse of the Cup. But thunderstorms and high winds forced the town to cancel the parade. With the weather not cooperating, Greene and the Cup were instead shuttled to an event at the local high school.
From the looks of the monstrous crowd at Grand Ledge High School, where Greene graduated in 2001, it didn’t take long for the residents to learn about the change in plans. By the time Greene and the Cup arrived at the high school gym, fans were reportedly already lining up to have a moment with the most iconic trophy in sports.
After three hours there, Greene was scheduled to visit a number of businesses around Grand Ledge before ending his day with the Cup among friends and family.
It's amazing how much things can change in a matter of months. For Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, the 2011-12 season ended on such a high note with the franchise's first Stanley Cup win that it's easy to forget the team's tumultuous regular season.
Just under a year ago, the Kings were opening the season in Europe with one of their best players, defenseman Drew Doughty, holding out for a new contract. Eventually head coach Terry Murray was replaced with Lombardi's former coach in San Jose, Darryl Sutter. That's a lot for any team to deal with in just half a season.
"[Last season] was really hard in a lot of ways. Starting out with Drew, it was frustrating not having a top player in your camp. Then going to Europe, you're not sure how it affects your team with the travel," Lombardi told NHL.com. "Making that [coaching] change was very difficult, but fortunately I had a man like Darryl who I knew was willing to do it. What he did speaks for itself."
In all the drama surrounding the Kings' first half last season, Lombardi didn't escape unscathed, either. Leading up to the NHL trade deadline, there was some speculation that his job could be in jeopardy if he didn't make a significant addition to a team that ranked near the bottom in League scoring. But for a longtime executive mentored by Cup winners like Bill Torrey, Bob Clarke and Lou Lamoriello, that speculation didn't mean much.
"Whether it was Clarkey or Torrey or Lou Lamoriello, they would pound that into you. You can't listen to it. You're a pro, you can't let it affect your judgment. At this stage of my career, it really didn't affect me. I've been trained so well," Lombardi said. "They're very single-minded men who aren't going to be influenced by things they don't believe. Early in my career, it might have [been a distraction]. But I guess that just comes with experience."
In the end, Lombardi was able to acquire Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline and the rest is hockey history. And with the entire Cup-winning roster returning for a chance to repeat, Lombardi sees an opportunity for the Kings to make even more history.
"We're very fortunate to bring everybody back," he said. "We were the fifth- or sixth-youngest team in the League. These guys have to continue to get better. I just talked to Jeff Carter last week, he sounds better than he ever has in terms of conditioning. Dustin Penner is way ahead of schedule.
"They're a great bunch of guys. The bottom line is it's about the players. The way they stuck together, I'm so proud of them."
Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi had the perfect icebreaker for the noticeably pro-Boston Bruins crowd that came out to celebrate the public event he hosted Thursday during his day with the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Ludlow, Mass.
"It's all about you. It's about being able to give back to so many people who did it for me. I just hope you have a great time," Lombardi said. "There's only one problem. Every Bruins jersey has to go in the back."
Lombardi would end up hosting a five-hour photo session with the Cup. For the man known by his hometown buddies as Dean-O, it was just part of giving back to the community that helped raise him.
Local hockey fans gathered to celebrate Dean Lombardi's day with the Stanley Cup in Ludlow, Massachusetts. (Photo: Tal Pinchevsky/NHL.com)
That meant starting the day by bringing the Cup to two local children's hospitals. The incredible perspective that trip provided ultimately set the tone for what would be a day dedicated to the people of Ludlow.
"There was one kid. She was in intensive care and she got up and touched [the Cup] and smiled," Lombardi told NHL.com. "I got so wired I wanted to hit somebody. Sport is about competitiveness. You see kids like that, they send us a message about being competitive. That was really neat."
From there, Lombardi was a fixture at the public event held nearby at Ludlow's Polish-American Citizens Club. Through five hours of posing for pictures and handing out hugs and handshakes, the GM made sure to spend time with the childhood friends he has known for over 40 years. They're some of his most cherished friends, a tight-knit group of one-time hockey brats whose parents, like Lombardi's, worked at the local factories and mills that once dotted Western Massachusetts.
Even decades after first lacing up the skates together, they still laugh at one another's expense, still refer to one another by nicknames like Sponge and Stevie and Eddie Looch. And when Lombardi returned to Ludlow this summer with the Stanley Cup, it was clear from the start that this was a celebration for everyone.
"He never forgot his roots," said Steve Orlik, Lombardi's longtime friend and former minor hockey teammate. "There's an electricity here right now, because it's about the people."
But when the endless crowds finally stopped filing into the public event, Lombardi and his former mates, including a group that won a national championship in 1976 with the Springfield Olympics, took time to honor two people in particular.
The first was Tony Costa, a local legend generally revered around town as the godfather of Ludlow hockey. Lombardi was just one of hundreds of young kids Costa coached in the area over decades. When kids needed a ride, he drove them to the game. When they needed equipment, he found it for them. And when Lombardi and his crew walked the Cup right up to the home of their former coach, the 92-year-old local legend was waiting ecstatically for them on his porch.
"It's hard to describe back then in the Bobby Orr era, when every kid was starting to play. He [Costa] drove the bus, collected the money, got you to the rink, coached you. Everybody knew him in this town," Lombardi said of his mentor. "[We] never forgot what he did."
After spending time with Costa, the group reconvened with the Cup to make one last visit to a friend; a valued teammate who couldn't make it to the day's festivities. That last trip was to the grave site of Gary "Zun" Ziencina, a fixture in the community who lost his battle with cancer in April 2010. Zun's concern for others always stuck with Lombardi, who has tried to impart those values on his players.
"He was the guy who taught me that happiness in life is being happy for someone else. He was so beloved in this town. He would get 10 guys together, but if somebody wasn't having a good time, he wasn't having a good time. He just loved people," Lombardi said. "In life, you say, 'If I had that car or if I just did this or met this person, my life would be complete.' Usually you're disappointed. Winning the Stanley Cup that night was [actually] better [than expected]. He totally would have loved this."
Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi poses for a photo on his day with the Stanley Cup in Ludlow, Mass. (Photo: Tal Pinchevsky/NHL.com)
There have been plenty of locals in Ludlow, Mass., conspicuously wearing Boston Bruins jerseys for Dean Lombardi's day with the Stanley Cup. But with streams of Bruins fans filing into town hall more than two hours after the Cup's arrival, one longtime fan of the Los Angeles Kings general manager made sure to wear her Kings T-shirt.
"I had no idea how much he's loved here," said Wandamae Lombardi, Dean's wife of almost 20 years. "It's amazing. He's had a great year."
Mrs. Lombardi is no stranger to hockey. Her father is Hall of Fame player/coach/GM Bob Pulford, and she met her husband when she was working the San Jose Sharks marketing department. Since that chance meeting, it's been a remarkable journey for the Lombardis, culminating in the Kings' Cup win, which occurred just months before the couple's 20th wedding anniversary, to be celebrated Sept. 5.
"I knew this team had it in them," Wandamae told NHL.com. "They really believed in themselves after they beat Vancouver."
And in a life surrounded by hockey, Mrs. Lombardi can't help but get excited about her husband's Stanley Cup summer.
"It's all come full circle. My father was a player and coach in L.A. Dean hired (former Sharks coach and current Kings coach) Darryl (Sutter)," Wandamae said. "It's very poignant."
When it came time to receive the Stanley Cup in Ludlow, Mass., Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi knew who he wanted to be with.
Throughout the day, from a visit to local children's hospitals to a public event at the town hall to a private party scheduled for later in the day, Lombardi was flanked by longtime friends and former teammates, some of whom have known him since he was 6 years old.
While Lombardi has enjoyed a nomadic hockey career, a number of his old friends have stayed in the area and were thrilled to welcome their old friend back -- this time with a special guest.
While Lombardi and his friends reminisced at the Polish American Citizens Club, local minor hockey teams posed with the Cup in the background. All in all, it's so far been a memorable day in Ludlow.
Ludlow, Massachusetts welcomes home Kings GM and resident Dean Lombardi on his day with the Stanley Cup. (Photo: Tal Pinchevsky/NHL.com)
Ludlow, Mass., is a short drive from the Basketball Hall of Fame in nearby Springfield. But the discussion today is all hockey, as Los Angeles Kings general manager and Ludlow resident Dean Lombardi enjoys his day with the Stanley Cup.
The Cup last came to this area in 1995, when it was hosted by nearby Wilbraham. On Thursday, residents lined up at least two hours in advance at the Polish American Citizens Club, where Lombardi is expected to bring the Cup by at noon. A local fundraiser is being held with a charity auction, in which locals will have the chance to win autographed Kings jerseys.
Prior to his arrival at the hall, Lombardi took the Cup to nearby hospitals before spending time with his first hockey coach, Tony Costa, who is known locally as the godfather of Ludlow hockey.
Lombardi is scheduled to spend five hours with the Cup at the Citizens Club, so stay tuned for more information at NHL.com.
When former Los Angeles Kings assistant coach Jamie Kompon was asked where he wanted to enjoy his day with the Stanley Cup, he didn't hesitate to say "St. Louis."
It was there he started his NHL career when St. Louis Blues coach Joel Quenneville hired him in 1997. Monday morning, almost exactly 14 years after arriving in the Gateway City, Kompon received the Cup there, ending one remarkable chapter in Los Angeles as another is about to begin.
Kompon left the Blues after being hired as an assistant on Marc Crawford's L.A. staff in 2006, brought in to groom second-year forward Dustin Brown and a rookie center named Anze Kopitar. Six years later, Kopitar and Brown are the only players remaining from that 2006-07 squad, and two big reasons the Kings are Stanley Cup champions.
Over the years, the Stanley Cup has traveled thousands of miles, but it may never have visited a smaller town than West Guilford, Ontario, hometown of Los Angeles Kings coaching consultant Bernie Nicholls.
A player for nine seasons in Los Angeles, Nicholls grew up in the town of roughly 100 people on his family's hunting farm, where his father and brothers have been leading hunts for bears, deer and moose for more than 50 years.
So when Nicholls finally had his day with the Cup on Wednesday, it only seemed fair he take it hunting at the Nicholls family camp.
"My dad makes canoes and we have a great picture of me holding the Cup out in the lake in the canoe," Nicholls told NHL.com. "We do a lot of hunting. I had my bow and it [the Cup] stood in the tree stand beside me. My dad has been there since 1961. I remember walking through the bush when I was 5 years old following my dad. I've hunted my whole life. I always had a passion for that."
For residents of the small town, located about 10 miles from Halliburton, Ontario, where Nicholls played junior hockey, it was a remarkable finish to a memorable 12-month run for the former Kings great, who ranks in the top five in team history in goals, assists and points. After staying involved with the club through alumni events, Nicholls spent parts of last summer lobbying L.A. general manager Dean Lombardi for a position with the team. While nothing came of the discussions with Lombardi, Nicholls was honored Dec. 10 on Kings Legends Night. Ten days later, Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray as Kings coach and brought Nicholls aboard as a consultant.
"For the last couple of years I've tried to do things with [the Kings]. It just didn't work out," said Nicholls, who was coached by Sutter while playing with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1994-95 season. "When Darryl took over, I thought if I asked him for an opportunity that he would let me come."
For a player who scored more than 1,200 points with six teams in a 20-year career, the return to the Kings rekindled Nicholls' hopes of bringing the Cup to the family hunting camp.
"When I retired we thought the dream was over," he said. "Playing, you think about it all the time. This year when I went to L.A., with the run they had, it made a dream come true for a community. Not only me and my family."
That remarkable Kings run to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history helped to realize a dream for a small, tight-knit Ontario town. But Nicholls still slightly was dismayed to find that he wasn't the first person to take the Cup hunting. Apparently Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, another avid outdoorsman, did the same after his team won the Cup in 2009.
"I heard Dan had it in a tree stand too. He had it fishing and everything," Nicholls said. "I may send Dan a picture. He would appreciate it."
For the past few summers, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has hosted his annual goaltending camp at the Stamford Twin Rinks in Stamford, CT. But this year in particular has seen the camp's popularity take off. That tends to happen when the local rink rat suddenly wins the Conn Smythe trophy in leading the Los Angeles Kings to their first Stanley Cup win.
"People were coming out of the woodwork. The day after [Quick won] the Cup we received 20 calls for applications for the camp," said Marvin Minkler, the assistant hockey director at Twin Rinks. "It was kind of neat seeing the little kids on the ice. They had a little twinkle in their eye when Jonathan would come and speak to them."
The week-long camp just recently wrapped up and featured roughly 46 attendees, including a father-and-son team that participated together in what has become an annual event for the Kings' star goaltender. But this year's edition of Quick's goaltending camp took on a whole new meaning when the Stanley Cup arrived in Stamford around 9 a.m. on Friday. With good reason, Quick got that day off from working at the rink.
When Montreal-born brothers Chris and Kosta Tsangaris opened the Redondo Beach Café in Southern California seven years ago, they wanted to create a haven for Canadian expats and L.A. hockey diehards. They never dreamed that one day they'd be hosting the Stanley Cup.
"The amount of people that showed up -- we never expected something like that. It's a Wednesday morning a month removed from the actual Cup victory. In L.A., things get old fast," said Chris Tsangaris, who moved to the area in 1988 after accepting a football scholarship at Long Beach State. "It was incredible. The Kings brought it out and it was just majestic."
The huge turnout, which stretched from the restaurant all the way to the sandy beaches a few blocks away, was for a Los Angeles Kings alumni charity event hosted by the Café where fans could have their picture taken with the Cup.
This weekend should prove to be a special one as the Stanley Cup serves as the guest of honor on the historic Sutter family farm in Viking, Alta. The prolific property raised six brothers who played in the NHL in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, combining for an astonishing 4,994 games and 2,934 points. When second-eldest brother Darryl Sutter earned his first Stanley Cup win as coach of the Los Angeles Kings, it meant hockey's most prolific family would be celebrating a championship for the first time since brothers Brent and Duane won one together playing for the New York Islanders in 1983.
But earlier this week, another of hockey's most famous families celebrated the end of an even longer drought.
Just four days before the Cup arrived in Viking, it spent an evening in Clear Lake, Manitoba with the family of Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall, who is also part of one of the NHL's great dynasties.
The weekly farmer's market in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, was forced to move this week from Friday to Wednesday, but area vendors shouldn't be too inconvenienced by the switch. It's all part of the day-long festivities welcoming Los Angeles Kings forward Colin Fraser and his special guest, the Stanley Cup.
It's not Fraser's first day with the Cup. After winning it for the first time with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, he brought the iconic trophy to his parents' home in Surrey, B.C. It was there he enjoyed a game of ball hockey with some old friends before being escorted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police to an official reception at Central City Plaza.
As one of the last dairy farms still packing their product in glass containers, the staff at Broguiere's Dairy likes to have fun with their bottle designs.
Photo courtesy Don Broguiere
A family-run business since 1920, the company has made commemorative bottle designs honoring numerous Southern California teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, UCLA, USC, and even Little League teams. But the response they're getting for their new bottle honoring the L.A. Kings' Stanley Cup win has shocked everyone, especially the head of the company.
"The response caught us off guard. We did a 'Congratulations Lakers' bottle three different times and never had a response like this," said company owner Ray Broguiere, whose son Chris is a big Kings fan and came up with the idea. "The response has been better than anything we've ever done."
After spending much of the last week moving around the east coast, the Stanley Cup made a stop in Canada's heartland Monday, where it was scheduled to spend two days in Brandon, Manitoba. With two Kings staff members hailing from Brandon, the Cup gets to enjoy an extended stay in town.
On its first day in Manitoba's second-largest city, the Cup officially belonged to Kings head equipment manager Darren Granger, who was born and raised in Brandon before playing junior hockey for the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings and eventually serving as the team's trainer for five years before moving on to the NHL.
After spending Tuesday and Wednesday in Massachusetts with members of the Los Angeles' Kings training and scouting staff, the Stanley Cup spent two days in Quebec with Jonathan Bernier and Simon Gagne before boarding an Air Canada flight for a return trip to the Boston area.
This time to spend its second day in the last four years with Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi.
A Boston College product who makes his off-season home in the Boston area, Scuderi enjoyed his first Cup win in 2009 with the Penguins by bringing the Cup to his childhood home on Long Island.
In his first day with the Cup, the veteran defenseman visited the local Nassau County police station, where his father Bob served on the force for 31 years, before arriving at Bethpage High School, where his mother Leslie works as a chemistry teacher. It all culminated in a memorable event at Newbridge Park, as locals honored the first Long Island native to have his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup.
Eleven months after Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron brought the Stanley Cup to Quebec City, enjoying a nice breakfast with the trophy at the city's historic Chateau Frontenac hotel, another native son brought the Cup to town.
With a golf tournament followed by a public event at the Le Relais ski resort just a few miles north of the city, Los Angeles Kings forward Simon Gagne made it a Friday the 13th to remember in La Belle Province's capital city.
After receiving the Cup in the morning and enjoying a family brunch, the Gagne was escorted by local police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the Golf de la Faune resort, where he kicked off his annual golf tournament with the Cup serving as the guest of honor. This year marked the 11th edition of the annual tournament, which has contributed $600,000 over the years to children's cancer charities.
Over the Stanley Cup's grand history, it has visited some of the most picturesque sites on the planet, including its fair share of castles, lakes and arenas.
But it would be difficult for any of those to match the scene surrounding the Cup last week when it arrived at the Church of the Assumption, a 15th-century Baroque-style place of worship located in the Julian Alps of northwestern Slovenia.
After carrying the Stanley Cup around Slovenia, the first time the trophy ever visited the country, Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar brought it, along with family and friends, to the church. For the NHL all-star, the visit brought his Cup journey full circle.
The past two months have been good ones for American hockey players, culminating with Dustin Brown becoming the second U.S.-born captain to hoist the Stanley Cup and Jonathan Quick becoming the third U.S.-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy -- all on a Kings team constructed by American-born general manager Dean Lombardi.
But the celebration for USA Hockey began in April, when the National Team Development Program's Under-18s won their fourth straight world championship. Players from that tournament now are likely to be selected at the 2012 NHL Draft, to be held June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
"It was unique this year with Zach Parise [of the New Jersey Devils] and Dustin Brown both being [Stanley Cup Final] captains from the United States, then Jonathan Quick winning the Conn Smythe. That's something we've been striving for," said Danton Cole, who coached the U.S. U-18 team. "Hopefully we see more guys like that in the NHL."
Cole's USNTDP team could figure prominently in that goal. The U-18s cruised through the world championship tournament in the Czech Republic, wrapping up gold with a 7-0 victory over Sweden in the final.
The program had five graduates selected in the top 39 picks at the 2011 Draft. This year, their choices likely will start with Jacob Trouba, a physical defenseman and national team co-captain who was No. 9 among North American skaters in Central Scouting's final ranking. He could be one of a number of U.S. defensemen hearing his name called.
"[Trouba] is a heck of a player and a really good man and a great competitor. He's going to make somebody pretty happy for a lot of years, throwing him out on right D every night," Cole said. "Staying on D, Brady Skjei is probably going to go very high as well. [He is] probably one of the best skaters to come through this program. Patrick Sieloff will go fairly high, in the first couple of rounds probably. [He has] good offensive skill but makes his mark on the defensive side of the puck by being physical. We had a pretty strong D corps this year."
The real jewel of the U-18 blue line could be its other co-captain, Seth Jones. The Texas product and son of former NBA player Popeye Jones won't be draft eligible until 2013, but is already at the top of a number of boards. If he goes No. 1, he'll be the first American to do so since USNTDP product Erik Johnson and Patrick Kane did it in in 2006 and 2007.
"He's certainly in the mix at the top there," Cole said of Jones. "He's got work to do, a whole other year to build that resume. But somebody is going to sleep well at night throwing him out every night on D.
"I felt the same way about Jacob at the end of the tournament. Those two guys did a good job."
The Devils fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta, and Steve Bernier has been a source of energy and timely scoring throughout the postseason. But the most surprising aspect of that line's success may be that its center isn't really a natural center at all. That versatility has allowed head coach Peter DeBoer and the Devils to adjust from game to game, prolonging the team's Stanley Cup Playoff run.
"I was a little worried to start but I kind of like playing center now," said Gionta. "I just need to work on my faceoffs more."
The ability of the Devils' forwards to shift from one position to another has been an asset for New Jersey, most recently during Game 4 in Los Angeles. That night against the Kings, DeBoer inserted veteran winger Petr Sykora onto a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus, forcing Elias to move to center. On his new line that night, the longtime Devil scored his first goal of the series.
"Patrik played center before. He knows how to play it," said Alexei Ponikarovsky. "We have a few guys like that, who know how to play either wing or center."
In a postseason that has seen the Devils trail 3-2 to Florida, 1-0 to Philadelphia, and 2-1 to the Rangers, the ability to mix things up and adapt has been key for a team looking to complete a comeback for the ages against the Kings. And it’s the adaptability of New Jersey's forwards that could be key if the team wants to make history.
"It's more of a forward position rather than right wing, left wing, center," said Gionta. "I think guys have done a good job of that throughout the playoffs, filling in the different spots."
Despite the long odds that lie ahead in Game 5 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final and beyond, the Devils brought a calm, collected approach into the game Saturday night at the Prudential Center.
"There's no need to be uptight and not smile and not have fun. You've got to be able to enjoy it," said Adam Henrique, the rookie forward. "This is a situation where there is nothing we can do except go out and play. Guys are still coming in smiling and having fun."
Attempting to come back from a 3-1 deficit in games, it certainly helps to have a strong veteran presence from players like Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias, two long-time Devils with five Stanley Cup wins between them. The team also appeared to benefit in Game 4 from the return to the lineup of veteran Petr Sykora, who with his appearance Wednesday night has now appeared in six different Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams.
"It's just a veteran presence we have in the locker room. Guys who have been to the Final a few times," said Stephen Gionta, another rookie. "It's a calming feeling when those guys are just sitting back and loose and looking forward to playing tonight."
That veteran presence helps, but there's no substitute for experience, and this Devils team has gained plenty of it during the past two months, coming back from a series deficit in each of the first three playoff rounds. That ability to battle adversity has given New Jersey a cool confidence that could come in handy if they hope to prolong their season.
"The confidence just comes from within the room. At this time of the year, in the situation we are, the last thing you want is panic or negative thoughts. You have to think positive, stay positive," said Alexei Ponikarovsky. "Why you have to get worried? About what? It's hockey. You go and play [hard], get another goal, tie it up, then all of a sudden momentum swings and you get another one."
In the New Jersey Devils' wild run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, a number of big names have made plays to prolong the postseason in Newark. But it's two young forwards in particular who have provided the bulk of the team's heroic moments.
The only Ontario-born players on the team, David Clarkson and Adam Henrique, are tied for the NHL postseason lead with three game-winning goals each and have combined to set up four game-winning and three game-tying markers. That flair for the dramatic hasn't just kept the Devils alive in the playoffs, it has added fuel to a friendly rivalry that has been going on in the team's locker room much of the season.
"I guess it's an OHL thing. I've still got to let Zach [Parise] know it's the best league to play in before coming to the NHL," joked Henrique, who scored two series-winning overtime goals before notching the game-winner Wednesday night against the Kings. "He tries to play it off like it's nothing, but I think he knows where the real hockey is."
Playoff heroics aside, Henrique and Clarkson have been outnumbered in the NCAA vs. OHL debate much of the season. Aside from team captain Parise, who attended the University of North Dakota, the Devils locker room is filled with several U.S. college products. They include fellow UND product Travis Zajac as well as Andy Greene (Miami-Ohio), Ryan Carter (Minnesota State-Mankato), Stephen Gionta (Boston College), Peter Harrold (Boston College), and Mark Fayne (Providence). But even surrounded by U.S. collegians, Henrique and Clarkson feel plenty confident representing "the O."
"We bug the college guys. There is always that college-OHL argument in here. It's more fun than anything," Clarkson said, who has plenty of support for Ontario within the organization. "We've got a large crew of OHL guys to hold it down. It's just a little joke we have in the room."
That crew holding it down has considerable sway in the Devils' locker room. Of the five members of New Jersey's coaching staff, four are Ontario-born and have coached or played in the OHL. That group includes head coach Peter Deboer, who played for the Windsor Spitfires for four years before returning to the league as a coach and eventually winning a Memorial Cup with Clarkson and the Kitchener Rangers in 2008.
The Devils' focus remains staving off elimination against the Kings in the Final, but the NCAA-OHL debate could wage on long after the series ends.
"We've got a lot of guys who have our backs on that one. It's fun," Henrique said. "I give it to them [college players] all the time about that."
It's safe to assume that there isn't anywhere else Kings coach Darryl Sutter would rather be this weekend than Newark, as his team prepares for an opportunity to wrap up the first Stanley Cup win in franchise history. But for the man who admitted he was working on his farm when the offer to become Los Angeles' head coach came last December, there is still a part of him thinking about Alberta just hours before Game 5 at Prudential Center
"It's Farmers' Day in Alberta," Sutter pointed out following his team's morning skate.
As a member of a large family that has been almost as prolific in farming as in hockey, there won't be too many people in New Jersey this weekend who know more about Alberta's Farming Day than Darryl Sutter. Celebrated across the province this weekend, the holiday was originally proclaimed in Alberta in 1951 and some schools in the province even reserve the right to close on the second Friday in June in commemoration. A longtime veteran of the agricultural celebration, Sutter attempted to stay coy when asked what exactly the holiday entailed.
"[It's] a big picnic with coolers," he said. "Hope you know what that means."
Following a light shootaround Saturday with the majority of the Kings' roster and a brief session practicing faceoffs with assistant coach Jamie Kompon and the team's centers, Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter appeared cool, collected, and above all ready for Game 5 against the Devils.
"You just want to play games. That's what they [the players] want to do too," said the Kings coach after acknowledging the birthday of Jack Ferreira, the team's special assistant to general manger Dean Lombardi. "He and [Devils CEO/president/general manage] Lou [Lamoriello] were both born in Providence. I won't say what his age is, but it's sixty-something."
With the extra off day behind him and no changes to his lineup, Sutter was focused primarily on the upcoming game. His team had already been subjected to almost 72 hours of discussion following the Game 4 loss that denied Los Angeles a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final. But with any distractions now in his rearview, Sutter downplayed any pressure surrounding this incredible opportunity for the Kings.
"I don't think there is any pressure on our team at all. The only pressure is the pressure they put on themselves to be as good as they can be," Sutter said. "It's not pressure, it's a good place."
And with only a few hours remaining before Game 5 at Prudential Center, Sutter was excited to see his team's effort.
"From a coaching standpoint, you're always looking for your team's best game," said Sutter. "I never question my team's effort."
It remains perhaps the greatest moment in Los Angeles Kings history. From his perfect shot to his euphoric celebration, Daryl Evans' overtime goal completed the Kings' historic comeback from a 5-0 third-period deficit against the Edmonton Oilers on April 10, 1982 -- a game forever known in L.A. as the "Miracle on Manchester."
Thirty years later, fresh off Anze Kopitar's show-stopping overtime goal in Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, Evans is thrilled to see this year's Kings writing a new chapter in the franchise's history.
"There have been a lot of big plays. You go back to the beginning of the playoffs, when Jarret Stoll got the game-winner in overtime against Vancouver. Then [Dustin] Penner's [series-clinching] goal against Phoenix," said Evans, who now does color commentary on the Kings' radio broadcasts. "You know that these are going to be moments that go down in Kings history."
If there's anyone who knows about Kings history, it's Evans. His goal remains one of the marquee moments in franchise history, and he played parts of four seasons with the team before spending the last 13 seasons in the radio booth. He has also served as a power skating consultant for the team since 2007. But it's his historic OT winner that he's still best known for, a distinction he doesn't shy away from.
"It comes up a lot, especially at this time of year. It comes to the forefront in the playoffs. I never get tired of talking about it," Evans told NHL.com. "Edmonton that year finished 46 points ahead of us in the regular season. It really was a remarkable evening. It was capped off by a great finish with the game winning goal."
Incredible as that goal may have been, it could be eclipsed by Kopitar's Game 1 overtime winner against New Jersey. How the series ends could ultimately dictate how that goal is remembered, but Evans knew it was a special play the moment he saw it.
"It's only the first game of the series," he said, "but these are the goals and moments that Kings fans will always remember."
Between Adam Henrique scoring two series-clinching goals and Dwight King notching several big goals in the Western Conference Finals, youth has served both Stanley Cup Final teams well. But for players who have made it to hockey's grandest stage early in their careers, getting back there is far from a guarantee.
"Things happened so quick. It felt like this is what we're supposed to do, be in the Final every year," said Rob Blake, who played in the 1993 Cup Final with the Kings in just his third NHL season. "Ten years later, I realized quickly that that doesn't happen. I can share with young players that you need to take advantage of the opportunity when you can."
Both the Kings and Devils have players on their roster who can speak to that experience. And for a rookie like Henrique, it can only help playing alongside veteran winger Dainius Zubrus. After reaching the 1997 Stanley Cup Final as a rookie with the Flyers, Zubrus has waited 15 years to get back.
"That moment didn't last as long as I wanted and didn't end the way I hoped," Zubrus said of his first Cup Final appearance, in which the Flyers were swept by Detroit. "Fifteen years later, here I am back in the Finals. Obviously, you're lucky to be on a team that gets to this point. You just don't know. You could be traded or going to an organization that might be in a so-called rebuilding process. You just don't know."
It may be easy to take that first Cup Final appearance for granted, but young players can learn from a veteran who has been there before and may not have been sure when they would be back.
"When you're young and naïve, you think, 'We'll get there next year.' It doesn't work that way," said Warren Rychel, a rookie on Blake's 1993 Kings team. "I said to myself, 'Don't worry, we'll get back next year.' It never happens [that easily]. We didn't make the playoffs the year after."
NEWARK, N.J. -- Mark Fayne may have a finer appreciation for being drafted by New Jersey Devils CEO/president/general manager Lou Lamoriello than some of his teammates.
In four years playing at Providence College, the second-year defenseman was inundated with the Lamoriello legend. The man who has headed the Devils front office for over two decades was a fixture in Rhode Island and brought the Providence hockey program to its greatest heights.
Born and raised in the area, Lamoriello was a player and coach on the Providence hockey team and still holds the school record for coaching wins. After coaching a 1982-83 squad considered the best in school history, he stepped down to become the school's athletic director.
In 2009, Lamoriello earned the Vanguard Award for lifetime achievement at the annual Cox Rhode Island Sports Awards. A product of nearby Nashua, NH, Fayne appreciated Lamoriello's legacy long before arriving in New Jersey.
"Being at Providence, there is so much influence he still has there. Just seeing his name all over the rink," Fayne said. "The Hockey East [championship] trophy is the Lou Lamoriello Trophy, so that's what I was playing for for four years."
Fayne hasn't been alone in his appreciation for his boss. His former Providence teammate Matt Taormina has also broken in on the Devils defensive corp following four years playing with the Fryars.
"He was actually a partner of mine for two years," Fayne said. "It's really great."
NEWARK, N.J. -- By the time Game 7 between the Rangers and Capitals ends Saturday night, the Devils will finally know whom and where they'll be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals. But with four days off before that series finale even starts, not all of the Devils will be enjoying that evening watching on television.
"If I start watching the game, I'll start thinking we're going to play this team next. Then the next period I'll think I'm going to play the other team," said Petr Sykora, who won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2000 and has no plans on watching. "I'm going to worry about my own game and myself. The next day we'll have a meeting about who we're going to play. Mentally I'm going to try to recharge and just get ready for whomever we play."
For younger players experiencing their first prolonged playoff action, the opportunity to watch the game seems more appealing. But don't expect them to hover around the television anticipating their next opponent.
"I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be at home with the game on, watching parts of it at least," winger David Clarkson said. "I might not watch the whole game, but I'll definitely watch some of it."
For one member of the Devils' staff, having the opportunity to rest and watch two teams battle for a spot in the conference finals is a luxury. But not because Game 7s are typically so exciting.
"Absolutely," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said when asked about watching the big game. "More with a coaching hat on than a fan's perspective. Every Game 7 is great, but from my perspective it's for pre-scouting both teams. So when we wake up Sunday morning we can hit the ground running based on who we're playing."
When asked about both defensemen, Devils coach Peter DeBoer described their day off as a "rest day" and said he expected them both to be available for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Devils went through a high-impact practice in anticipation of the next round of the playoffs, which will see them face either the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final.
"We had a work day today," said DeBoer. "I think you have to stay in the rhythm of pushing your bodies every other night. That's the NHL playoffs."
Zidlicky has six points in 12 games this postseason and has quarterbacked New Jersey's power play since being acquired from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 24. New Jersey dressed just six defensemen for practice on Thursday, including Matt Taormina, who has yet to make an appearance in this year's playoffs and hasn't dressed for the Devils since March 27. Peter Harrold, who has not dressed since Game 2 against the Flyers, could be called into duty if the Devils found themselves short a defenseman.
Volchenkov was on the receiving end of a hard hit from Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo early in the Game 5 win over the Flyers, but managed to finish the game.
The Devils will hold an optional off-ice workout tomorrow before getting back on the ice for practice on Saturday.
With longtime western powers Detroit, Vancouver, and San Jose dispatched in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's no wonder the last two teams standing in the Western Conference don't have a great deal of experience playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
While the Kings have little real playoff experience on their roster, there are a couple of notable vets leading the charge. Particularly Rob Scuderi, who won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, and Dustin Penner, who won it with Anaheim in 2007. There's also Justin Williams, who won the Cup with Carolina in 2006, one of seven players on the Kings' active roster who have played in the Stanley Cup Final (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter made it in 2010 when Philadelphia lost to Chicago while Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene appeared with Edmonton in 2006). That's a wealth of experience compared to the Coyotes.
Ray Whitney is the only member of the Coyotes roster to have won the Stanley Cup, having done it alongside Williams in 2006. After him, only Antoine Vermette and Raffi Torres, who is out for the series after being suspended for his hit on Marian Hossa, have played in the final. In years past, that experience may have come from assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, who won a pair of Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Samuelsson left the Coyotes after last season to go become head coach of Sweden's fabled Modo club.
Whichever team does ultimately make it to the Final, they'll certainly be adding plenty of valuable experience to their roster.
Every season series between division rivals is a hard-fought six-game standoff. But this past season's games between Phoenix and Los Angeles were so closely matched that it could serve as an exciting preview for a potentially explosive Western Conference Final.
The season series between these Pacific Division rivals started October 20 in the season's second week. That night in Glendale, Jonathan Quick made 28 saves in a 2-0 win. Compared to the five series games that followed, that score was a blowout win for the Kings.
The teams met again in Glendale just nine days later in a game that saw the Kings and Coyotes go back and forth, combining for 72 shots. The hard-fought affair ended with Daymond Langkow's overtime winner from in close on Quick to give the Coyotes a 3-2 overtime win.
By the time the regular season was wrapped up, the Kings would hold a 3-1-2 advantage in the series, outscoring the Coyotes 13-11. Every game but the opener was won by a single goal in a season matchup that saw three shutouts, two overtimes, a shootout, and even a scrap between captains Shane Doan and Dustin Brown. The shootout took place in the teams' final matchup on February 21, a 5-4 Coyotes win in Glendale won by Mikkal Boedker's pretty shootout tally on Quick.
If that wild season series, not to mention the first month of the playoffs, is any indication, the 2012 Western Conference Final could be a good one.
After allowing a single goal or less in four of the first six Stanley Cup Final games, the general consensus heading into Game 7 is that Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas might win the Conn Smythe Trophy regardless of which team wins Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). If Thomas does win the Smythe, it could be a notable moment in the history of this coveted award.
At age 37, Thomas would become the oldest player ever to win the playoff MVP. Currently that distinction is held by another goaltender, Glenn Hall, who earned the honor in 1968 at age 36 with the St. Louis Blues, which lost in the Final to the Montreal Canadiens. If, like Hall, Thomas wins the Smythe in a losing effort, he would become the sixth player -- five of them goalies -- to do so.
Not long ago, this award was reserved primarily for players in their 30s. Between 1996 and 2002, seven consecutive Smythe winners were 32 or older. That streak included Scott Stevens, who was a few months shy of Hall’s record when he won the award in 2000. In more recent years, however, the race for Conn Smythe has been a young man's game. Four of the last six winners have been 24 or younger and the last two -- Jonathan Toews and Evgeni Malkin -- won it as 22-year-olds.
While Thomas would become just the sixth player to earn the honor at age 34 or older, 14 players age 24 or younger have won the Smythe. Incidentally, there is one player who appears on both lists. Three-time winner Patrick Roy was just 20 when he became the youngest-ever recipient of the Smythe, with the Canadiens in 1986. In 2001, he won it again with the Avalanche at age 35.
There are other goaltending records in play for Thomas. With one more stop, he will establish a new record for saves in a playoff season, this after establishing a new benchmark for save percentage in the regular season. If Thomas captures the Smythe and the Vezina this season, he’ll be just the third goalie to do so, after the Flyers’ Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall.
While Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas were both nominated for the Vezina Trophy this season and represented their countries at the 2010 Olympics, any similarities between the opposing Stanley Cup Final goaltenders end with how they entered the League.
In 1994, Thomas was selected in the ninth round by the Quebec Nordiques -- in a round that no longer exists by a team that no longer exists. By the time Luongo was drafted with the fourth pick in the 1997 first round, the highest selection ever used on a goaltender, Thomas was shuttling between three different leagues on two different continents.
Today they're battling for the Stanley Cup.
For some time, taking goalies at the top of the draft was a recipe for Stanley Cup success. In fact, from 1976 to 1998, 10 of the 11 starting goaltenders who won the Stanley Cup were taken in the third round or higher. That all changed in 1999, when the undrafted Ed Belfour led the Stars to Lord Stanley over 10th-round selection Dominik Hasek of the Sabres. That Final marked the first time in the modern era that two goaltenders so overlooked in the Draft faced off in the Final. The feat was practically duplicated three years later, when Hasek faced off against fellow 10th-rounder Arturs Irbe.
These exploits marked something of a shift in where goalies came from in their quest for Stanley Cup glory. In fact, since 1998, goalies undrafted or selected behind their counterpart have gone 8-4 in the Final. Coupled with the undrafted Antti Niemi hoisting the Cup last season, that bodes well for Thomas and the Bruins. But it’s not an exact science.
Four of the last seven Cup-winning goalies have been first-rounders, starting with the 2003 series, the first in the modern era to see two opening-round netminders -- Martin Brodeur and Jean-Sebastien Giguere -- face off. If nothing else, it all shows how a goaltender can follow a variety of paths towards Lord Stanley's Cup.
With his goal in Game 2, Bruins’ forward Mark Recchi became the oldest player to score in the Stanley Cup Final. With two more goals in Game 3, Recchi built on that record while making a considerably younger linemate a part of hockey history.
With an assist on Recchi’s second goal Monday night, Bruins’ rookie Brad Marchand contributed to a fascinating piece of Stanley Cup lore. Recchi, the oldest active player in the League at age 43, is 20 years, three months, and 10 days older than Marchand, an age disparity that is among the widest ever between two players combining for a Stanley Cup Final goal. To put things in perspective, Recchi was drafted by the Penguins one month after Marchand was born.
Since 1997, the only two players who have come close to matching this distinction are Jiri Fischer and Igor Larionov, who was the oldest player to score in the Cup Final before Recchi got his Game 2 marker. In 2002, Larionov, 41, took a pass from Fischer, 21, and found the back of the Carolina Hurricanes’ net to help lead the Red Wings to the Cup. At 19 years, seven months, and 28 days, their mammoth age gap still couldn’t match Recchi and Marchand.
This mix of youthful energy and veteran leadership has boded well for previous Stanley Cup champions. In fact, since 1997, teammates with at least a 15-year age difference who have combined for a Cup Final goal have gone 6-2 in the series. In 2004, 40-year-old Dave Andreychuk finished his career by setting up 24-year-old Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards for the game-winner in Game 4 of the Final. Five years later, 38-year-old Bill Guerin set up 22-year-old Conn Smythe winner Evgeni Malkin in Game 2.
While these goals don’t occur often, 21-year-old Alex Tanguy helped lead Colorado to the 2001 Cup by finishing separate passing plays from Ray Bourque (40) and Dave Reid (36)
If anyone can draw any meaning from young and old combining for a Cup Final goal, it’s probably Recchi. In the 2006 Final with the Hurricanes, a 38-year-old Recchi scored off an assist from 21-year-old Eric Staal. Even on that team, Recchi was the oldest player on the roster.
On a team full of first-round picks, a free agent led the way again Saturday night.
Despite missing 306 man games during the regular season -- seventh-most in the League, the Vancouver Canucks were able to find enough interchangeable parts to capture the Presidents' Trophy this season. A quick scan of their roster shows where much of that team depth comes from.
If most of the NHL's top young talent is selected in the Entry Draft's first round, then the Canucks enjoy an embarrassment of riches.
But despite fielding among the League's finest collections of Draft Day talent, it was the Vancouver's only undrafted player who was the star in Game 2's 3-2 victory. With three points, including the winning goal 11 seconds into overtime, Alexandre Burrows followed a very different path to the Stanley Cup Final.
As the lead singer of popular 80's group, Loverboy, Mike Reno has enjoyed top-ten singles, best-selling albums, sold-out arenas, and every other rock-star perk. He never expected that writing a theme song for a Stanley-Cup contender would someday become part of the deal. A longtime Canucks fan, Reno has added a chapter to his music career with "Flying High," a new song that may have become his latest hit, at least within the confines of Rogers Arena.
The host of "The Bro Jake Show" on Vancouver's Classic Rock 101 radio station, Reno was inspired to write the song after Vancouver's stirring seven-game series win over Chicago. The song was then quickly posted on the Canucks' web site and has since become part of the team's playoff push. "Hopefully, the song can follow the Canucks all the way to the championship," says Reno. "You never know. We might just play it in concert. Why not?"
What we expected is what we got. Very mature young individual that's focused. He is on the right track. He's not only a great hockey individual, but he's a good person off the ice. He seemed to take a leadership role with this group right off the hop and ran away with it, and was vocal, was respectful, was everything it takes to be a Panther. His future looks bright.
— Florida Panthers director of player development Brian Skrudland on defenseman Aaron Ekblad's performance at development camp