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Posted On Thursday, 09.08.2011 / 11:48 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Grabner's speed came naturally

When it comes to skating, just call Michael Grabner "The Natural."

The New York Islanders forward won the Fastest Skater competition during the skills competition at All-Star Weekend in January and went on to lead all rookies with 34 goals, becoming a finalist for the Calder Trophy.

He said Thursday that his skating skills just came naturally.

"I've never trained for it," he said. "I did a lot of sprints -- track and field -- when I was in school. I always practiced with older guys when I was in school when I was younger, and I tried to keep up with them. I wanted to be the fastest. That probably helped me.

"But I didn't do any specific training or have any skating coaches or anything. I guess I got lucky."

Grabner is one of just three Austrian-born players in the NHL (Thomas Vanek and Andreas Nodl are the others). Hockey isn't the big sport in his homeland, and Grabner may owe his career on ice to a fortunate accident of geography.

"We lived across the street from the rink," he said. "My mom signed me up when I was 5 because my friends and a lot of people from school were playing. That's how I got into (hockey). I liked it and started to play roller hockey in the summers. After that, I would spend five or six hours a day at the rink. I loved it."

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Posted On Thursday, 09.08.2011 / 11:32 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Brad Richards a Packer-backer

The NHL season starts in less than 30 days, but Brad Richards might be even more excited for the start of the NFL season.

The newest New York Ranger was born in Prince Edward Island and played his professional hockey in Tampa and Dallas. Yet Richards has always been a fan of the Green Bay Packers, who will kick off the NFL season against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.

But why the Packers?

"My dad was a big NFL fan, so I watched it a lot," Richards said. "When I started getting interested, I was probably 15 or 16, right when (Brett) Favre was winning MVPs. It was all him. But then I found out more about Packer tradition and Lambeau Field and I always just went with."

Even during his time in Dallas, home of the Cowboys, he never kept his love for Green Bay a secret.

"Oh no, " Richards said. "I was very open about all that."

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Posted On Thursday, 09.08.2011 / 11:25 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Parise open to long-term stay in New Jersey

After Zach Parise signed a one-year contract this summer, a lot of people started reading into it. Why wouldn't he sign a long-term deal? Does this mean he's angling to leave New Jersey at the end of the upcoming season?

On Thursday, Parise talked about the contract and said by no means did he sign the deal thinking it would be a one-and-done situation.

"We talked about both," Parise said of discussing short- and long-term deals. "Without getting into too much detail with respect to everyone involved, we came down to that and that made the most sense. We said it right after we signed it, that we were going to keep talking. It's not as if we're not going to talk until next June 30. We'll keep going and keep working on it."

Parise said despite the rumors that he wants to test free agency, he likes playing for and living in New Jersey and would like to stick around.

"I know people's initial reactions are, 'Oh, it's one year and get out of there.' But that's not how it went down, that's not how it worked out. We'll keep trying to figure it out."

Parise also talked about his commercial, in which he plays a police detective who's partnered with a pair of Easton hockey skates. During the ad, Parise appears to slide across the hood of a car, causing some to question why he'd do that when he was dealing with a knee injury.

"I had a stunt double for that," Parise said. "I took a lot of heat from people saying, 'You can't play hockey but you can slide across a hood?' That wasn't me. I literally just got my brace off four days before that. I could barely walk, so I wasn't in any condition to be doing that. That wasn't part of rehab."

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.07.2011 / 10:21 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Toews enjoys his PMT veteran status

NEW YORK -- Jonathan Toews remembers the first Player Media Tour he attended back in 2009.

"I was star struck," he told NHL.com. "I've come a long way."

Indeed he has. Instead of being star struck, the Blackhawks captain is now comfortable in his starry skin as he prepares to go through his third Player Media Tour.

"It means a lot to be considered a top guy that gets invited back," Toews said. "You want to be one of those guys that keeps getting invited back."

Toews, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby and Henrik Lundqvist have attended all four Player Media Tour events in Manhattan.

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.07.2011 / 8:39 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Kesler honored to be first Canuck at PMT

NEW YORK -- Ryan Kesler is still recovering from his offseason hip surgery and he remains devastated at losing two former teammates, Rick Rypien and Pavol Demitra, but here he is in the Big Apple with his wife, Andrea, experiencing the NHL Player Media Tour for the first time.

Kesler also wanted to point out in during our conversation tonight at the Versace Boutique that he is the first Canuck to attend the Player Media Tour.

He's happy to say so.

Since he plays in Vancouver, Kesler rarely gets a chance to visit New York. In fact, he said this is Andrea's first time in the city.

They unfortunately can't stay for too long because Ryan has to go to Vail to get his hip examined and Andrea has to get home to their two kids to begin what she called her super mom duties again.
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Posted On Wednesday, 09.07.2011 / 6:15 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

NHL stars take Manhattan

NEW YORK -- Stars of the National Hockey League are taking Manhattan this week for the 2011 Player Media Tour.

More than 30 players, including Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos and Tim Thomas, will take part in the League's third annual event that will take them to the NHL headquarters on Sixth Avenue as well as Prudential Center in Newark.

The event begins Wednesday night with an invite-only player cocktail party at the Versace Boutique on 5th Avenue.

The NHL in conjunction with the clubs has coordinated the Player Media Tour since 2008. This year's is going to be the biggest yet with more players than ever.
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Posted On Thursday, 08.18.2011 / 4:23 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - The Research Project

Will we be back here again next year?

Brendan Shanahan stopped short of calling the Research, Development and Orientation Camp an annual event, but the value of it for the League, the clubs, players and attending media has grown in leaps and bounds from last year to this year that it'd be strange to think of not having this event next year as well.

"We're still talking about it," Shanahan said. "We've done it two years in a row and we'll take a step back to see if we do it annually. I know there would be some disappointed 17 year olds if we didn't do it next year, so we'll see."

That's just the thing about this camp, the orientation aspect for the top draft-eligible prospects has become such an important element. Testing potential rule changes and technological innovations is certainly important for the NHL, but getting to know the top prospects that could be coming into the League soon should not be undervalued.

"We are doing research and development at a time when our game has never been better, and what we've stumbled upon is a great event for the best 17 year olds in North America," Shanahan said. "It's good for us to get to know them a bit, for them to get to know the NHL a little bit and to learn a few things about what to expect in their draft year. It was a fun event."

Shanahan even came away with a favorite rule change that was tested, one he wouldn't mind seeing one day soon in the NHL.

"I think in overtime to change ends and do the second period line change, the far line change really made a difference," he said. "I think 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 were both really exciting."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 08.18.2011 / 3:46 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - The Research Project

Skills Contest brings camp to end

The final event of the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation was the All-Star Skills Competition, and it featured some pretty special moments.

The fastest skater contest was a near dead heat between Owen Sound's Jarrod Maidens and Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk edged him by one-tenth of a second  in the preliminary round, and when they raced again in the final, it was Galchenyuk by a whisker again, getting around in 15.040 seconds, compared to 15.045 for Maidens.

The Breakaway Challenge allowed the players to show their creativity, and they didn't disappoint.

The first to star was Sudbury's Mathew Campagna, who on his third try got the puck to stick to his blade and raised the stick over his head with one hand. As he skated in, he slashed his stick down, but it hit the goalie right in the chest.





Sarnia's Nail Yakupov tried a Superman dive with the puck in his hand and tried sliding it over to his stick, but couldn't get the shot off. Another attempt featured Galchenyuk lobbing the puck chest-high as Yakupov skated in, but his shot attempt went wide.

The winner, though, was London's Andreas Athanasiou, who put the puck between his skates, flipped it into the air and flicked it out of the air with his backhand and into the net.




USNTDP right wing Miles Koules won the accuracy shooting contest, twice needing just five shots to break the four targets.

Athanasiou won the final event, the Elimination Shootout. Through two rounds, he and Portland defenseman Derrick Pouliot were the only skaters remaining. Pouliot's third attempt landed in Collin Olson's glove when the USNTDP netminder made a fine save. At the other end, Athanasiou beat Daniel Atlshuller for the victory.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 08.18.2011 / 2:01 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - The Research Project

Coach speak: Their favorites

After coaching three games that involved various different rule changes, Dan Bylsma and Dave Tippett were able to pick out what potential changes they liked best. Here are their favorites:

TIPPETT

No line change after going offside and the faceoff goes back into the offending team's zone

"It's a little bit the same as the icing rule, where you can't change and it goes back to the end zone. If they did that with offside also, that's an area where you can really exploit matchups. It's giving a team an advantage. Now, there are going to be some people who say just because you go offside, is it too much of an advantage? The one thing offside does is it stops the game, so you'd basically be penalized for stopping the game. Don't stop the game. Play fast, but there is going to be a consequence if you stop it with icing or offside. I know how hard it is when you ice the puck and you've got tired players on, a mismatch, it can change the outcome of games."

BYLSMA

Switch ends for overtime and start with four minutes of 4-on-4 and then go to three minutes of 3-on-3

"You'd get more games decided in the overtime. That's something I would like to see implemented in our game. All the good players are going to be on the ice more and the long change accentuates being tired. If it goes end-to-end and you get tired, I think more games will be decided in that overtime period than go to a shootout."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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Posted On Thursday, 08.18.2011 / 1:33 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - The Research Project

The perfect test subjects

What made it so easy for the NHL general managers in attendance to judge how potential rule changes and innovations could affect the game was the high quality of play from the top 2012 Entry Draft prospects used to try out the changes.

"I'm so impressed with the level of the play and the intensity these guys bring," said NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan.

Dave Tippett and Dan Bylsma, who coached the teams, both were struck not only by the talent of the players, but by their competiveness.

"We're standing back behind our bench and saying that when we were 17 years old, they're a long way  ahead of where we were at that age, for sure," said Bylsma. "Tip said it, these guys competed really hard. There was a lot of passion out there. At the same time they gave us a good look at a high-quality game and trying some different things."

Among the players that impressed Bylsma was goaltender Malcolm Subban.

"I think there's a skill level in a few players that's real evident," he said. "We saw three or four kids, and really I thought Subban in net played really well for his two games that he played."

Tippett was impressed by a few players, as well.

"The young Russian, (Nail) Yakupov, you can tell he's a dynamic player," he said. "You get to know the personalities … (Mathew) Dumba, the captain of the Hlinka tournament, he's got great enthusiasm, great passion for the game. It's great to see these kids. They get put in situations like this with a lot of eyes on them, and they still enjoy the moment. Those are fun times for young players."

The final session for the players featured a catered lunch and question-and-answer session with Montreal Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri and Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog, the second pick of the 2011 Entry Draft.

"It's part research and development and it's part orientation for us to introduce them to what to expect in the NHL," said Shanahan. "After lunch they're going to have a Q&A with Mike Cammalleri and Gabriel Landeskog, talk about what it's like to be a pro player, what it's like to be a junior player in his draft year. They (the prospects) are giving us a lot and we also want to give them something back as well, an experience to prepare themselves for this big year for them."

Following lunch, there will be an all-star skills contest where the players will further be able to showcase themselves.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Quote of the Day

My job was to get that puck and put it on net, and his job was not letting me do it. I got the best of that, but that game's over and to be honest I already forgot about it.

— Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk on his late game-tying goal in Montreal's 2-1 OT win
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