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Posted On Friday, 02.28.2014 / 3:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Injuries, free agents create intrigue before deadline

This is it: the home stretch. The final few weeks of the regular season are upon us, and it should be an interesting run up to the playoffs and what could be an eventful summer.

When you consider some of the players currently dealing with injuries, as well as impending free agents who could be dealt before the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline, certain teams looking to make a deep playoff run are facing some huge decisions in a short period of time. How they handle those decisions could be almost as exciting as what happens on the ice.

It starts with the New York Rangers. They've been one of the League's hottest teams, but the Rangers are in a really interesting situation right now. Who knows what is going to happen with the contract situations involving Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi? I played with both of them. Both these guys have earned the right to earn their dollars as potential unrestricted free agents, especially a guy like Girardi.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.26.2014 / 1:29 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Miller's future intriguing subplot to Sabres-Bruins

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry features a spirited matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). But with Buffalo in the middle of a rebuild it appears that general manager Tim Murray will look to trade franchise goaltender Ryan Miller before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5 at 3 p.m. ET.

Although Miller won't start against the Bruins after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, the speculation surrounding him will be an intriguing subplot in this game.

Right now Murray has a real high price tag on Miller. I spoke to three NHL GMs yesterday, including one that would be in pursuit of him. They said frankly the price is just too high right now. Obviously Murray wants to maximize his return, I don't blame him. Miller has played at a high level this year. In spite of the team struggling, he's been world-class. He was a rock star in the win against the Hurricanes.

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Posted On Saturday, 02.22.2014 / 12:23 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Sweden and Canada go for Olympic gold

After a wild up-and-down tournament that has seen countless incredible moments and more than a few upsets, the gold-medal game at the 2014 Sochi Olympics is finally upon us. It features two of the most talented rosters in the entire tournament as Sweden takes on Canada with the gold medal on the line.

Each team features specific strengths that helped them get it this far and will rely on those strengths to win one last game for gold.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.19.2014 / 6:42 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Olympic semifinals offer so much for hockey fans

The semifinal games are all set for the hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and feature two of the best international rivalries in the game. The United States will play Canada and Sweden will face Finland, with a shot at the gold-medal game on the line in each.

As a hockey fan, there is so much to love about these two matchups.

For me, it starts with the United States.

I think the U.S. is playing a great style of hockey. They've made a great transition onto the international ice. They're playing with a lot of speed, and that's exactly what coach Dan Bylsma wanted. He talked about that coming into the quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic. They've looked fast and pushed the pace while doing a good job of attacking the middle of the ice.
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Posted On Friday, 02.14.2014 / 1:51 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Swiss could be the surprise in Sochi

Based on everyone's preliminary predictions, the gold medal in men's hockey at the 2014 Sochi Olympics will go to either Canada, the United States, Sweden or the host Russians. But there are other countries that could play the dark-horse role.

When I originally looked to pick my tournament underdog that could surprise some people, I originally was thinking Finland, which may have the best goaltending in Sochi. But there's a new underdog I'm thinking will play spoiler.

I'll be keeping an eye on Switzerland. The Swiss can upset somebody. They won silver at the World Championships last year and I definitely consider them a potential surprise. If goaltender Jonas Hiller keeps playing the way he has been playing, that could be a nightmare of a matchup for one of the favored four teams. There's no reason to suggest Hiller won't keep playing great. If he plays at that level, they could break some hearts along the way. That would turn the tournament on its ear.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.12.2014 / 3:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Canada, U.S. stick to North American style on big ice

It's finally here. Many of the world's best players have descended on Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Unlike the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, games will be contested on the larger international ice surface. There has been some speculation that the larger sheet could hurt Canada and the United States, who finished first and second, respectively, on the smaller surface in Vancouver.

I'm not so sure that's the case.

Given the high-end skill of Canada and the U.S., I wouldn't be surprised to see them both play more of a North American style, just without the silly rough-and-tumble and after-the-whistle stuff we sometimes see in the NHL. Internationally, the officiating standard is much different.

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Posted On Friday, 02.07.2014 / 2:26 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Avalanche poised to make run with Varlamov in net

Semyon Varlamov
Goalie - COL
RECORD: 28-11-5
GAA: 2.48 | SVP: 0.924
So many goaltenders have posted incredible numbers this season. Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche is certainly one of them, having already topped his previous season high of 26 wins, which he set two years ago.

The Russian's great play in the crease hasn't gone unnoticed, as he was rewarded last week with a five-year contract extension reportedly worth $29.5 million. With Varlamov now established as the clear No. 1 in net, Colorado has solidified a core that we could be hearing about for some time.

I spoke to Varly's agent, Paul Theofanous, and he gave me a real good breakdown of what went into signing that extension. First of all, it's the right fit. The Avalanche have been great with him, and they love what they're building there and the direction the team is heading. He's only 25 but has played almost 200 games, which is quite a bit for a young goalie in the NHL.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.05.2014 / 9:46 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Penguins-Sabres matchup offers several subplots

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry features two teams in very different places as the Pittsburgh Penguins, who sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, visit the last-place Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2). But there are plenty of compelling subplots to this game that we could still be discussing as the season plays out.

Starting with Pittsburgh, I'm definitely impressed by defenseman Matt Niskanen. He is having a hell of a year. He is a guy who is definitely playing above expectations and he's a pending unrestricted free agent, so he's going to get a lot of money either from Pittsburgh or someone else. Another young defenseman, Olli Maatta, has also been very impressive, especially for a 19-year-old. Both of these players found their game as the Penguins dealt with some major injuries on the back end.

Kris Letang has been injured and hasn't played at the same level, Paul Martin has been banged-up. Add that to injuries to Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik and there has been a great opportunity for Niskanen and Maatta to come in and play at the level they have.

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Posted On Friday, 01.31.2014 / 4:20 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Plenty to see before the Olympic break

Having just attended the two games at Yankee Stadium involving the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders, I have to say it was all amazing. There were more than 100,000 hockey fans in two nights at Yankee Stadium. That's tough to beat. It was a great spectacle, it was a great show and I think all three teams played hard. It also provided a glimpse of what certain teams will need in order to make a playoff push before the Olympic break.

Coming out of the Rangers' 2-1 win against the Islanders on Wednesday, I was particularly impressed by the play of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. If Nabokov can continue to play that way for the Islanders down the stretch and they can stay healthy, it would be huge. He can help provide confidence as well as a veteran presence. That would be big for them to make a push toward the playoffs.

If the Islanders hope to make up some ground during the sprint toward the Olympic break, they'll need that veteran contribution from Nabokov. We're seeing a similar contribution from Nathan Horton with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been great since their big offseason acquisition joined the lineup after undergoing shoulder surgery during the summer.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.28.2014 / 10:00 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Rangers, Islanders close Yankee Stadium games

The New York Rangers' 7-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium on Sunday was an entertaining game against a truly magnificent background. Fortunately it was the first of two games that will take place at the iconic stadium as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

The two-game series at Yankee Stadium wraps with a Wednesday Night Rivalry matchup between the Rangers and New York Islanders, their second of three games in a 10-day span. It's a huge game for both teams that will close a historic time for New York sports.

From a Rangers standpoint I love the fact that they stuck to their game plan against the Devils. They didn't start well but coach Alain Vigneault was telling them that he wanted to see them play in numbers, especially defensively. They didn't do that at the start of the game but they made adjustments, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made his adjustments and they came out flying in the second period.

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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres