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Posted On Monday, 03.23.2015 / 1:55 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: Richards exactly what Kings need

I watched the Los Angeles Kings lose to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday saw a team that just can't score right now, and gets more chances from its fourth line than its second or third. I thought to myself, "This team needs to do something to right the ship. Are they ever going to call Mike Richards up?"

Funny how that happens sometimes.

By the time the Kings called up Richards on Sunday, it seemed pretty clear that this was a move they had to make. Regardless of his struggles this season, you know Richards has the experience of winning the Stanley Cup twice and that he plays hard every night. Maybe he can give them the juice or the spark the Kings need because that's the way he plays. Maybe he'll be so fired up to be on planes instead of buses that he'll bring a whole new energy to their lineup. That's something the Kings desperately need right now if they're going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and have a chance to defend their title.

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Posted On Monday, 03.16.2015 / 2:22 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: Kings need to pick up the pace

The Los Angeles Kings have developed a reputation for being one of the best, most-clutch teams in the NHL over the past few seasons. With two Stanley Cup championships in recent memory, who is going to argue?

That said, we have 14 games left on the schedule and the defending champs are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I don't like to use the word panic with this team because I don't think the Kings panic. They've been in too many big games with this current group of players.

But the Kings also are aware of the schedule and where they sit in the standings. And you have to think they're starting to get worried, if they haven't been for a while. I think most people expect the Kings will find a way to get in, myself included. After all, L.A. has a game in hand on the Winnipeg Jets, their closest competition for the final wild card spot into the playoffs in the Western Conference. But the Kings know they need to get on a hot streak and win some games, and maybe get some favors from the rest of the conference. The last 12 or 13 games of a season go fast. They need to get hot now and I imagine their intensity level will be up big time over the final few weeks of the season.

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Posted On Monday, 03.09.2015 / 1:58 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: Metropolitan race heating up

Every season the NHL features thrilling races down the stretch, but this spring the best race is looking like the Metropolitan Division. The New York Islanders have owned first place in the division for most of the season, but they've started to fade recently while the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins have surged.

The Islanders still are in first place, but I think the Rangers will end the season there. The rivals will play Tuesday (7 pm ET, NHLN-US, SN1, TVA Sports) in a game that will have massive implications. By the time it's done the Rangers could be sitting in first place.

The one thing the Rangers have to be wary of as they navigate the race is just how tight their schedule is. The Rangers have three games in hand on the Islanders -- a number that will grow to four after the Islanders play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday -- but will play their final 18 games in a 33-day span.

That is a grueling pace to keep up, and it will change the tenor of the race significantly. Not because the Rangers might get worn out, but because coach Alain Vigneault might decide it's more important to be playing well and be rested for the Stanley Cup Playoffs than it is to win the division. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see important older players getting the occasional night off. Dan Boyle or Martin St. Louis might be given a rest here or there, and even some of the younger players could get a night off to have a mental break. You want to be in the best position you can be once the playoffs begin, but sometimes that means playing the right way rather than playing for the high seed.

Over the next month the Metropolitan race will show us which the Rangers value most.

YA GOTTA HAVE HART

We talk about awards and honors all season long, and the Jack Adams Award always is a subject of debate. I've been talking most of this season about how the Nashville Predators' Peter Laviolette, Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals or Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks look like the frontrunners this season, but over the last month I have really changed my mind. If you watch the Calgary Flames and see where they are in the standings, to me it seems obvious that Bob Hartley is the coach of the year.

We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop with this team all season long and it just hasn't happened. Then it looked like the last nail would come in the coffin at the end of last month. Calgary lost its captain and arguably its best defenseman in Mark Giordano for the rest of the season two games into a crucial seven-game road trip. How did the Flames respond? The went 3-1-1 during the rest of the trip and picked up wins on back-to-back nights against the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings.

Hartley has kept this team competitive and done it without any offensive superstars. Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau have played great. Sean Monahan has proven he's no fluke. But none of them are household names yet. This team still continues to compete, though. Everyone contributes offensively and defensively, and that's just a tribute to Bob. He has this team prepared and playing well. That's the sign of tremendous coaching.

COOL HAND LUC

Luc Robitaille became the most recent former NHL player to be immortalized in a statue when the Los Angeles Kings honored him this past weekend outside Staples Center. No one reading this needs to be told how great of a player Luc was, but as someone who coached him, I can say firsthand that while the honor is unbelievable, Robitaille is among the few deserving of it.

Luc was drafted by the Kings, spent most of his career there and finished his career there. Then moved to the front office and helped build the Kings into one of the finest organizations in the League. It's pretty amazing to have the kind of Hockey Hall of Fame playing career Robitaille had and then follow it up with two Stanley Cup championships in the front office. It's even more remarkable to do all of that with one team. That statue is a testament to what Luc means not just as a great player but to the L.A. Kings organization.

I also can say that Robitaille was a great player to coach. He loved to compete and to practice. He loved being with the guys in the dressing room and had a great sense of humor. And perhaps most importantly he wanted to be on the ice all the time. If you looked down your bench when you were coaching, you always had Luc looking back at you. Coaches love that. You love a guy who wants to be out there every shift. Obviously Luc couldn't play every shift; no left wing can. But he made the ones he played count better than almost anyone else who's played the position.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.01.2015 / 11:45 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: Bracing for a busy trade deadline day

The NHL Trade Deadline is always a busy day on the NHL calendar, but I have a feeling this one could be busier than most. The reason for that is simple. There are just too many tight races both at the top of the standings and at the bottom, too many teams in contention, but at the same time there are several teams that already know they're sellers. You put those two things together and what you get is a lot of movement.

Obvious candidates to make moves are ones just outside the Stanley Cup Playoff field or clinging to one of the wild-card spots. Teams like the Florida Panthers or the Minnesota Wild have already started to make trades in hopes of bolstering their chances. At the same time, though, the teams at the top will all be aggressive and that's because while we know there are some prime suspects, there doesn't appear to me to be one single bona fide Stanley Cup favorite. Are we ready to say the Nashville Predators are the team to beat? Are the Chicago Blackhawks going to be the same contender without Patrick Kane for three months? Are the Montreal Canadiens or Tampa Bay Lightning ready to take that next step?

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Posted On Monday, 02.23.2015 / 2:10 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: Look out, Kings have flipped switch

For weeks we've been talking about the precarious situation of the Los Angeles Kings. This is the team that has won the Stanley Cup two of the past three seasons and it has spent most of 2014-15 on the outside looking in, waiting to turn on the switch. Well, after seven consecutive wins, it looks like the switch is back on. I hate to use a cliché, but the Kings just seem like a team that, when its back is against the wall, when it gets to a point where it just absolutely has to win, it somehow manages to pull wins out of its hat.

They look like the L.A. Kings again. Their 2-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game on Saturday was an example of what we've seen over the previous six games. There was very good defense, Jonathan Quick made a few key saves, Drew Doughty was excellent and a different guy stepped up offensively. Saturday it was Kyle Clifford and Marian Gaborik. The next night it'll be Jeff Carter and Jordan Nolan. The next night it'll be Dwight King and Dustin Brown.

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Posted On Monday, 02.16.2015 / 1:34 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: Wild's Dubnyk playing like an MVP

Lately, I've been asking myself this question: If the Minnesota Wild make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is goalie Devan Dubnyk suddenly a serious contender for the Hart Trophy?

The Wild have been the hottest team in the NHL lately and they're climbing up the standings. If they do make it in, as far as I'm concerned, Dubnyk is going to be the reason why. He's been stellar since arriving, going 10-1-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average, a .938 save percentage and four shutouts, and as a result Minnesota is now on the cusp of cracking the top eight. Acquiring Dubnyk has completely changed the outlook of this team and completely changed its fortunes, and when you take that into account, as unheard of as it would be, I think you can make an argument that he's been the most valuable player in the League.

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Posted On Monday, 02.02.2015 / 2:22 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose Minute: No easy answers for Maple Leafs

Every year in the NHL there are good teams and bad teams, but it's rare you find a bad team that is in as dire straits as the Toronto Maple Leafs are right now. You could easily say the Maple Leafs are playing worse than any other team in the League after a January in which they went 1-11-1. They're beaten mentally and physically and they're underperforming tremendously.

Toronto looks like it needs to completely rebuild in my opinion, but the only thing more frustrating than the Maple Leafs' record might be the reclamation project. How exactly can you blow that team up with so many guys that have huge contracts or no-movement clauses? How do you start over with so many players that are untradeable? Do you build around guys like Phil Kessel or James van Riemsdyk and try to move everyone else, or do you try to leverage young talent like Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly into high picks because they're the only valuable commodities you've got?

From the players' perspectives, it's extremely difficult to play in a situation like this mentally. There are still a ton of games left in the season, but the Maple Leafs have little to play for and are in a major market that demands success. I've been on teams that have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs and I've coached them too. It's a rough experience. In a market like Toronto, it'll be that much more difficult for the players and their fans.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.27.2015 / 1:19 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: The Kings chase for the final playoff spot

The second half of every NHL season is full of exciting races, important questions, and major surprises, but the second half of the 2014-15 season might be more interesting than most. Many teams are in the mix, though I think the Eastern Conference is probably going to see the same eight teams we have in the postseason field now make it in April. Out west, though, there's a ton of mystery, and it almost all revolves around the defending champions.

The Los Angeles Kings are on the outside looking in as we return from the All-Star Break and while they're only one point back of the surprising Calgary Flames, there is plenty of reason for Kings general manager Dean Lombardi to start getting concerned. L.A. is going to be a very interesting team to watch because everyone just expects the Kings to turn it on and take a run at the Cup even if they've been inconsistent all season. That may happen, but one of these years it won't. The Kings can't just sit back and expect to be there.

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Posted On Thursday, 01.22.2015 / 3:00 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: All-Star Game, Columbus are perfect match

Playing and working in hockey has taken me all over. I grew up in Saskatchewan, of course. I've played in Kamloops, Winnipeg and Toronto and coached in Medicine Hat, Seattle and Los Angeles. But of all the places the sport has taken me in Canada or the United States, Ohio has become my adopted home in the U.S., without a doubt.

I played professionally for the Cincinnati Stings of the World Hockey Association in the late 1970s before I played in the NHL, and I married an Ohio girl and have been back to the state many times. Knowing Ohio as I do, I can tell anyone heading there for the first time this weekend that the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be a great host for the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The fans in Columbus have really come out and supported the Blue Jackets even as the team has struggled because of injuries this season, and that leads me to believe the venues, the events, all of them will be full of passionate fans. I think we're in for a great celebration of the NHL.

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Posted On Monday, 01.19.2015 / 2:10 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Melrose Minute

Melrose: Ducks, Kings going in opposite directions

The Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks have developed one of the best rivalries in the NHL in recent seasons, but their most recent game on Saturday might be a microcosm of where the rivalry is going. The Ducks beat the Kings in L.A. in a shootout, and I know shootouts have a certain degree of randomness, but when you look at this game and at the standings, it's hard not to see the Ducks with an edge. It's also hard not to wonder if something might be seriously wrong with the Kings.

The Ducks, to me, are the best team in the NHL. I think the Chicago Blackhawks are a team they'll have to reckon with at some point, but you have to look at the body of work and what the Ducks have been through. They've dealt with the mumps, injuries, Corey Perry being out for long periods of time, Frederik Andersen taking over a job that was essentially supposed to belong to John Gibson who couldn't perform, and yet here they are atop the standings.

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Quote of the Day

For six months, it's a really good accomplishment. But as soon as April [11, the end of the regular season] comes around, no one thinks about the regular season anymore. For six months, it's a real battle to get into the playoffs in the NHL these days. There are a lot of good teams, and it takes consistency over a long time.

— Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on clinching a playoff berth after a win against the Islanders on Saturday
AMP No Bull Moment of the Week