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Posted On Wednesday, 12.18.2013 / 6:16 PM

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

Rangers can take advantage of injury-plagued Penguins

It was six Wednesdays ago that the New York Rangers last hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. At the time, the Penguins were flying and slowly starting to get healthy as the Rangers were working to overcome a 2-6-0 start.

The Penguins got off to a strong start that night, but the Rangers came away with a big 5-1 win over their Metropolitan Division rival.

They're back at it tonight, but much has changed with the Penguins.

First and foremost, the Penguins are obviously without a lot of key personnel. Evgeni Malkin is out with an injury, as are each of Pittsburgh's top four defensemen. They're going to have to really buckle down to overcome these losses. I think the onus is going to be on their forwards to continue to come deep in their defensive zone and help out the defense because the blue line is decimated right now. Also, because they don't have Malkin down the middle either, the forwards will also have to make themselves outlets for the defensemen to transition the puck and get going north.

Posted On Friday, 12.13.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Rangers, Ducks: Teams going in different directions

Heading into this season, it's fair to say both the New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks had pretty high expectations. But these two teams have gone in opposite directions as they've opened the final month of 2013. And the reason behind the Rangers' struggles and Ducks' success can be pinpointed to a few basic principles.

Right now it's a very critical time for the Rangers. It's New York. It's an Original Six team. It's the biggest market in the NHL. The Rangers have got to get in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and their current franchise-record nine-game homestand is the perfect place to start that run.

Unfortunately, they started the homestand with an 0-3-1 record, including a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

They're playing an inconsistent brand of hockey right now. The saving grace for them is they know they can play better, and they're in the Eastern Conference and not the West. My challenge with the Rangers right now, based on their makeup, is I don’t know if they have enough skill to be a purely skilled team and I don't think they're gritty enough throughout their lineup to be able to play a power game. They're caught in between. They're capable of doing both of those things well. But what are they committed to?

Posted On Wednesday, 12.11.2013 / 12:12 PM

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

Blackhawks starting to rally around Raanta

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game features the Philadelphia Flyers visiting the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) in a rematch of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. It may not have been that long since Patrick Kane scored his historic Cup-winning overtime goal in Game 6, but both of these teams have changed since then.

Starting with Chicago, the challenge will be how long can they go without goaltender Corey Crawford? So far Antti Raanta has played well. The two Stanley Cup-winning goalies on their team, Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin, are injured, which puts the spotlight on Raanta, the latest player in the pipeline of Finnish goalies. So far he has come in and looked comfortable and played well. He's going to have to continue to play the way he is playing to allow the Blackhawks to play the way they play. The Blackhawks have been able to make plays and not change their style of game because they're worried about getting a save.

Posted On Friday, 12.06.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Stars showing signs of growth in tough division

As those who read this blog know, I enjoy shifting the spotlight onto players or teams that might not be getting the credit or attention that they deserve. This week, I'm able to do both.

Having said that, let's talk about the Dallas Stars and Ryan Garbutt, a guy who is doing a heck of a job this season.

The Stars may be stuck in the incredibly competitive Central Division, which boasts top teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. But Dallas has managed to hold its own and even beat the defending champion Blackhawks on Tuesday night in Chicago. That is impressive, especially when you look at how young Dallas' roster is. But all of Dallas' young players are coming along. From Antoine Roussel, who scored the winner in Chicago on a penalty shot, to Alex Chiasson to Cody Eakin.

Posted On Wednesday, 12.04.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Red Wings, Flyers enter rivalry game as better teams

Of all the great Wednesday Night Rivalry matchups we've had so far this season, this week could be one of the most intriguing as the Philadelphia Flyers visit Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

It's been a tale of two seasons for both of these teams. Detroit had trouble finding consistency in the early going but has looked very impressive in winning four straight, including resounding wins against the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, both without Pavel Datsyuk, who has been out with a concussion and is questionable for Wednesday.

Detroit's 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday was impressive for many reasons. It starts with Darren Helm being back after dealing with a back injury that limited him to one game last season. I know coach Mike Babcock is really bullish on Helm. He seems to make a big difference with their team and has seven goals in 14 games this season. He is very fast and adds a lot of speed to that lineup. By the time you complement that with rookies Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, you're getting young legs that can help an older, experienced Detroit team play a more up-tempo game. They were pushing the pace against Ottawa. They actually out-skated Ottawa in that game, which you wouldn't expect coming into the matchup just based on both teams' personnel.

Posted On Friday, 11.29.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Young talent playing way into Olympic consideration

As you've probably noticed, has spent the week projecting the rosters for the top teams at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The invitations sent out over the summer give some idea as to who will be on these impressive teams. But some players overlooked during the summer have been playing their way into consideration for Sochi.

I think Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins has definitely played himself into the conversation for the United States. Look at what he has done on a back end that features Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid. You can argue that Boston has the best blue line right now in the Eastern Conference. And Krug has stepped in and hasn't missed a beat from the way he was playing at Michigan State and at Providence in the American Hockey League. More importantly, he hasn't missed a beat from how he played in the postseason with Boston last season, when he scored four goals in his first run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a Czech Republic team that will be relying heavily on veterans, Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks deserves a shot. For him to be as young as he is, doing what he is doing on a top line with a future Hall of Famer in Joe Thornton and an X-factor in Brent Burns, it's beyond phenomenal. We've all seen what he can do and the Czechs could definitely use his blend of size and skill.

Posted On Wednesday, 11.27.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Weekes: Red Wings have big test against Bruins

Once again, we have another great midweek matchup as the Boston Bruins visit Joe Louis Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings in this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). This game features two Original Six teams that have been among the class of the League for some time now.

The rivalry has an added element this season, with the Bruins and Red Wings competing in the Atlantic Division. Detroit has struggled a little since joining the Eastern Conference this season. But any conversation regarding the East has to begin with the Bruins.

I think Boston is the class of the Eastern Conference. One could argue goaltender Tuukka Rask is the most consistent goalie in the League right now. The Bruins have a great defensive corps with a top offensive line that propels them, as well as a third line consisting of Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly that has been excellent. They're very well-coached and play with a lot of structure. That means they are very strong on the puck and on the boards and very solid with puck possession and one-on-one battles. The main thing with them, especially offensively, is their versatility. Offensively, they can score off the rush, they can score off the cycle and their defensemen can contribute to help create goals.

Posted On Friday, 11.22.2013 / 12:15 PM

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

Weekes: Some great efforts being ignored

At the quarter-point of the 2013-14 season we've been focusing on all of the big, prevailing stories and trends in what has been a great season so far. But I wanted to bring attention to some of the more unheralded, under-the-radar players who have been excellent this season but haven't really earned enough attention.

It starts with two veterans defying expectations with the Calgary Flames and ends with two youngsters turning heads with the Boston Bruins.

The Flames have faded since their excellent 3-0-2 start. But one thing a lot of people aren't talking about is the play of the veterans in Calgary. I love Sean Monahan and we can talk about how he has been amazing. But I also love the way Mike Cammalleri and Jiri Hudler are playing.

Posted On Thursday, 11.21.2013 / 10:54 AM

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

Weekes: Stadium Series in New York great for fans

Yankee Stadium will be hosting two very special outdoor games as part of the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series. It starts Jan. 26 when the New York Rangers face the New Jersey Devils and continues Jan. 29 when the Rangers meet the New York Islanders.

As someone who has played for all three teams, I have a unique perspective on these rivalries.

Personally I think the atmosphere at these games is going to be nuts. If you haven't lived or spent time in the New York metropolitan area, you don't really understand how much people love hockey there. You think it's the Giants, the Jets, the Knicks and everybody else.

Unless you spend time there you don't know how much people really love hockey. We're talking millions of people in the area, from Broadway to Long Beach to Morristown, N.J. The fact that they support three teams within that radius is mind-boggling. It's not just because of the population. It's about the passion.

Posted On Wednesday, 11.20.2013 / 3:00 AM

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

Ovi, Fleury will be key in Wednesday Night Rivalry

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry will be a great one as two of the most talented teams in the NHL face off when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the nation's capital to play against the Washington Capitals (8:00p.m. EST, NBCSN).

Sidney Crosby has been putting up points at his typical pace, but one of the real stories at the quarter-point of the season has been Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who entering Tuesday night was tied with Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues for the League lead with 17 goals.

With 40 goals in his past 42 regular-season games, Ovi is really humming along. The key for him is he's scoring in a lot of different ways right now. When you're a goal-scorer, that means you're giving the opposition fits. It makes it very difficult for them to defend you when you're able to score in so many different ways, because it means you're doing a lot of things right without the puck. I like Ovi's game right now. He's scoring from the middle of the ice, he's scoring from the wing, he got a backhand rebound the other night, we've seen him on his off side, he's scoring around the net on little chip-ins.

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Quote of the Day

Yeah, it was a pretty special moment for me. Today was my Dad's [55th] birthday. I have a lot of family in town, so it was a special moment for me to score my first one today. A win definitely would have capped it off, but you can't have everything.

— Sabres rookie Jack Eichel after scoring a goal in his National Hockey League debut
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