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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Harrold's play has kept Larsson on sidelines

NEWARK, N.J. -- Do the New Jersey Devils need another player along the blue line capable of carrying the puck and exploding off the transition in their Eastern Conference Semifinal round series against the high-powered Philadelphia Flyers?
 
Rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who was drafted fourth last June with the potential of providing that very skill set, could be that guy. The thing is, the only player Larsson could replace at this stage is a healthy Peter Harrold. And head coach Pete DeBoer has been extremely impressed with Harrold's poise and consistency.
 
"He's come in after playing in the minors the entire year and really given us some real solid minutes back there," DeBoer said of Harrold. "He's good defensively, can skate the puck out of trouble and add on the offensive side. He's a low-maintenance guy and you can tell he has some veteran savvy to him; you can tell he's played NHL playoff games before."
 
Harrold, 28, had played in just two playoff games as a member of the Los Angeles Kings prior to signing as a free agent by the Devils last August. In eight playoff games this year, he has three assists and a plus-2 rating.
 
But the key part of DeBoer's analysis on Harrold is the fact he considers him "a low-maintenance guy." If Larsson were inserted into the lineup, the coaching staff would have to monitor his minutes and also determine the ideal points in the game when he would be put on the ice.
 
Larsson has been a healthy scratch for 13 of New Jersey's last 14 games, including the regular season.
 
Harrold, paired mostly with Anton Volchenkov, has averaged 15:11 in ice time during the playoffs. He amassed a season-high 19:18 during the team's double-overtime win against Florida in Game 7 last Thursday.
 
DeBoer gave his team the day off on Monday. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who didn't register a shot on goal against the Flyers on Sunday, was unavailable for comment as he was receiving therapeutic treatment prior to boarding the team bus to Philadelphia in the afternoon. It has been rumored that Kovalchuk has been playing hurt in the playoffs.
 
"I think that it's not for a lack of effort with Kovy," DeBoer said. "Great players go through stretches where things aren't working well, and then where they are. You just have to work through it."
 
Here were the line combinations for the Devils during Sunday's game:
 
Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Alexei Ponikarovsky
Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
David Clarkson - Adam Henrique - Petr Sykora
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
 
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 4:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils get day to regroup before going for series tie

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer decided to give his club a complete day off on Monday following their Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference Semifinal game on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.
 
DeBoer informed the media on Monday afternoon at AmeriHealth Pavilion that he is undecided on whether he will stick with the same line combinations he had for Sunday's game against the Flyers.
 
"I'm going to sleep on the line changes," DeBoer said. "I liked some of them. Some of them weren't as effective. It's juggling to try and get four lines that are really contributing in a positive direction and we weren't there [Sunday]."
 
The Devils, who dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Flyers, will look to even this best-of-seven series on Tuesday in Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, CBC).
 
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who made 32 saves in Game 1, said there were a lot of positives to take out of the loss -- the most important being the team never quit.
 
"We showed a lot of character," Brodeur said. "It could have been easy after that power-play goal [by Claude Giroux that gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead early in the third period]. We allowed another power play right after, we killed it, and we stuck with it. There's a lot of good things besides winning. I thought we did a good job. We got to be happy, refocus and try to win a game in this building now."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise, who had a goal, assist, three hits and two blocked shots in the game, said his team needs to be faster on the puck.
 
"We need to make better plays through the neutral zone and put the puck in the right spot to allow us to forecheck," Parise told reporters on Monday afternoon before his team bused to Philadelphia. "We turned the puck over too much, and they have a good transition. We made it a lot harder on ourselves."
 
The Devils had six giveaways in the game, as compared to 13 by the Flyers.
 
"We're not going in with mindset of losing that game [Tuesday]," Brodeur said. "They're a confident bunch of guys. They took down the best in the League and played us pretty well in the second and third period [in Game 1]. They feel good about themselves, so we'll have to find a way to put a little doubt in the way they play the game."
 
Parise knows just how infectious confidence can be this time in the season.
 
"I'm sure they're not lacking in the goal-scoring confidence after their first-round series," Parise said. "You can tell they play systems well, and when a team is confident, they play loose. You can tell they're playing like that right now."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 3:40 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Capitals see need to add more speed to attack

NEW YORK -- One of the battle cries from some members of the Washington Capitals after the two practices since a 3-1 loss in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series has been the need for more speed through the neutral zone.

The Capitals, particularly the team's top line with Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera, were stifled for much of the game and unable to create much offensive pressure on New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

Washington's ability to create said speed does not start in the neutral zone, but in the Capitals' own end. Ovechkin's line was pinned back by a consistent wave of offensive pressure by the Rangers, and they often spent most of a given shift stuck more than 150 feet away from Lundqvist.

"When you're wheeling around in your own zone and trying to fight battles, it is a lot more tiresome than if you're having fun in the offensive zone creating chances," Washington forward Troy Brouwer said. "Anyone will tell you that. If you're spending most of your shifts in the d-zone, you're getting worn down and you won't have that ability to jump up in the play and create some speed. Guys got to make sure when there's loose pucks, we've got to be the first ones on them, recovering those pucks and getting them out and being good along the walls. That will help us create more offense in that way."

For Ovechkin's line to play less defense, they need to play better defense. A big issue for the Capitals when Ovechkin's unit was on the ice was an inability to get the puck out of danger and away from New York's aggressive forecheckers.

There was an instance where Ovechkin's group was able to break out of its own end crisply -- and the result was a perfectly executed counterattack goal for Chimera. When something like that didn't happen, the line often spent so long playing defense that there was no energy left to play offense.

If Ovechkin did carry the puck into the offensive zone, he went at it alone while Laich and Chimera headed for a change or were left far behind him.

"Actually in the first series … ideally, you want to get flying through the neutral zone, but it doesn’t always happen like that," Laich said. "Especially now when it's pretty tight -- sometimes you have to stay patient and go up the wall with the puck and chip it in and forecheck and create your opportunities. It's not going to be all night where we're flying through the neutral zone."

Brouwer is expected to replace Chimera on the top line. Ovechkin, normally a left wing, skated on the right side for a drill Monday morning. Moving him to the opposite side could mean less one-on-one battles with New York's top shutdown defenseman, Dan Girardi, but his partner Ryan McDonagh is no slouch and it would also mean Brouwer, a natural right wing, would also have to play out of position.

"I don't think there is anything in that," Brouwer said when asked if he might be on the left side for Game 2. "I know he likes to come down that left side so he has the shot available right from the beginning. Guys are reading that and they know he likes to open up and take that shot from the half wall. Maybe if we were on the other sides, and I know that we're not so it is not an issue, but maybe it would throw guys off a little bit."

Laich has been a versatile forward in Washington for the past few seasons, and Brouwer has proven to be similarly adept at playing on different lines in different situations since joining the team from Chicago. He has been deployed at times during the latter part of the regular season and this postseason on the team's checking line with Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks, but he has also moved up to the top unit on occasion.

"It shouldn't [change], but sometimes it does," Brouwer said. "When you're with skilled players like Brooks and [Ovechkin], you can be more creative as far as offense goes. If you're with [Hendricks] and [Beagle], it is more of a grind-it-out, predictable kind of line. You know exactly where the puck is going and what they will be doing with it, whereas with [Ovechkin] sometimes you don't have a clue. So sometimes there is a change in how you play.

"We have to make it so when we do get the puck out, we're not jammed right up against their d-men, because they do a good job of holding the red [line] and the blue [line]. When teams can do that, it is almost like having another defender because you can't go offsides and you've got to dump pucks. It is tough. We have to try and create more separation coming into the zone."
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 3:28 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Jagr's playoff beard talk of Flyers locker room


VOORHEES, N.J. -- When Jaromir Jagr was a young scoring star with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he earned the nickname "Mario Jr," as a credit to his teammate, Mario Lemieux, and as an anagram for his first name.

Now in the latter stages of his career, Jagr might have a new nickname -- Patches.

Now a grizzled, 40-year-old veteran, Jagr is growing a playoff beard -- of sorts.

"Just wanted to shave all the gray [hair] and that's what happened," Jagr said of a beard that appears sporadically around the lower half of his face. "I don't want to dye it."

"Patches," Danny Briere told NHL.com. "It looked like patches. I don't know what's going on there. I don't talk to him about it."
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 3:25 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Briere once again 'Mr Clutch' for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- A day after scoring the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Flyers' Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New Jersey Devils, a few interesting statistics emerged regarding Daniel Briere.

Among them was it was his 36th playoff goal in six seasons in Philadelphia. As a comparison, the Sabres, Briere's former team, as a whole have scored just 33 goals in that same time span.

Briere told NHL.com he didn't put a whole lot of stock in that number, however impressive it may be.

"It's a fluky thing and it's I think the proof of whenever you have a good team around you, good teammates around you, a lot of good things will happen," he said. "I've been fortunate to be around good teams that have had long playoff runs. That's mainly the reason why."

Briere's two goals Sunday were his sixth and seventh of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, tying him with teammate Claude Giroux for the League lead. He now has 106 points in 104 career playoff games, including 69 points in 64 games with the Flyers.

"He's a great player," linemate Jakub Voracek said. "Everyone knows that since the playoffs started he's lighting it up and that's exactly what he's doing right now. He's been clutch in a lot of games."

Briere said one reason he's able to perform at such a high level in the playoffs is because he treats every game like it could be his last.

"My first six or seven years in the League I had only played six playoff games," he told NHL.com. "As a kid growing up you always dream of scoring the big goals and playing in those high-intensity games where there's no tomorrow. And now I have that chance. I don't know how long it's going to last. This could be my last run, I don't know. I was thinking the same thing a couple years ago. Just had the same mindset, the same mentality -- it could be my last playoff run. I don't know how long it's going to last but I try to enjoy it as much as possible while it's here."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Greene's shorthanded goal a hit in Kings' room

ST. LOUIS -- There was a buzz around the Los Angeles Kings' locker room Saturday and the last couple days in the aftermath of defenseman Matt Greene's shorthanded goal in Game 1.

"It's a little rare that he ever crosses the blue line," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty joked about Greene. "But that's what playoffs [are] about. Getting a little from every single guy on your team and to see a guy like him score in the playoffs, all of us were so happy for him and it just gave us a boost."

The Kings have three shorthanded goals [Dustin Brown with two goals and an assist has been a part of all three of them], which matches their power play output in the postseason.

"We don't want to give them any time and space," Doughty said of the PK. "If good players have that space, they're going to find the seams and the open guy backdoor for an easy tap-in. We're definitely very aggressive on the penalty kill. We're blocking shots and that's kind of the motto of our team.

"It's been working out great for us. That aggressive style makes guys on the back-end panic when guys go 100 miles an hour at them. You're going to panic with the puck a little bit and with ice conditions and stuff like that, pucks are going to bounce over your stick or whatever it may be. Brownie's been doing a great job of reading those opportunities and it's been a big part to our playoff season so far."

Greene's goal broke a 1-1 tie late in the second period and propelled the Kings to a 3-1 victory.
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 2:54 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

D'Agostini in as Blues make lineup changes

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues will make a couple changes to their lineup heading into Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Coach Ken Hitchcock has decided to flip his top two centers for tonight's game, meaning David Backes will now be between Andy McDonald and Alex Steen, while Patrik Berglund will once again join David Perron and T.J. Oshie.

Also, Matt D'Agostini will replace Chris Stewart in the lineup on the third line.

When asked what he's looking for, Hitchcock said, "More o-zone time, better o-zone play, more tenacity on the puck, more reckless. We've made the switch before short-term and it's worked.

"We just feel like we need a different energy. I just think for us to win the series ... they're a big team, they're a physical, big team, and we need to play with more tempo, more speed throughout our lineup. This allows us to play that way the way it's built. With switching the lines there with D'Agostini, it gives us more speed. We just want to see how it looks because for me, they're a team that wears you down. We need to make them spend more time in their zone more than they want."

Oshie, Perron and Berglund are no strangers to playing together. They're Blues first-round draft picks who came up through the organization together and are close as well off the ice.

"There's going to be a lot of energy," Oshie said. "We've been through a lot together away from the rink, at the rink. We've been here from the start for all of us ... Perry was here a year earlier, but it seems like we all kind of grew up together and we've got this sense of closeness.

"... We've got those young legs, as Walt [Keith Tkachuk] used to say. I think we compliment each other well. I need to bring more intensity and as much intensity as I can into those two; try to carry it along with me, because when both of them have their feet moving, they're hard to stop."

D'Agostini has only dressed in one postseason game [Game 2 of the first round against San Jose] and is looking forward to providing a boost.

"Just go out there, try to get involved early and get into the game as quick as possible," D'Agostini said. "... Any time after a loss, a change could spark the guys.

"It's been tough watching. You know you always feel like you can contribute. Me personally, I feel like I can help this team win. I'm happy to be back in there and looking forward to tonight."

Hitchcock said it's nothing against Stewart, who's pointless in five playoff games.

"I'm not unhappy with Stewy at all," Hitchcock said. "I think he's been fine for me, but we just feel like we would like to play with more speed in our lineup ... number one, and number two is we want to have a different look on one of the power-play units and that's where Dags excels. ... We'd like to see him get some PP time if we get there. He's very effective at where he goes. He's a guy that's willing to stand in there and absorb the shot."

With Backes, it gives him a different perspective with two more skill guys and he can continue to be more responsible defensively.

"Those guys are supremely talented and I'm hoping to be a supporting piece to it, take care of the defensive zone and let their offensive instincts and their skill show up," Backes said of McDonald and Steen. "If we can do that, those guys will have great nights and we'll have a great night as a team."
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 2:33 PM

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

Melrose: Kings have chance to put Blues on the ropes

The Kings beating the Canucks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was a big surprise -- but it wasn't a surprise to me. I pegged L.A. to win against the Presidents' Trophy winners and sure enough, here are the Kings in Round 2 instead of Vancouver.

But I did not think the Kings would beat the Blues.

St. Louis has looked like one of the strongest teams in the League all season to me ever since Ken Hitchcock took over, and I expected the Blues to be able to move on to the Western Conference Finals and maybe win the West, but after dropping Game 1 to the Kings on Saturday -- and not in a fluky way -- it's starting to look like the Blues could be in trouble, and they'll be in serious trouble if they wind up losing Game 2 Monday night.

I was surprised Saturday at how well L.A. handled St. Louis physically. St. Louis is a team that prides itself on being able to beat you up physically and battling physically, but I didn't see that in Game 1 against L.A. I saw at best a draw on the physical side of the game, and at worst for St. Louis, I thought maybe the Kings were the more physical team. That wasn't supposed to happen, so I think that's certainly something that has shocked St. Louis and that will have to change if they're going to turn the series around in Game 2 and once it goes to California.

I went into this series thinking, "Yeah, L.A. beat Vancouver, but I don't think Vancouver was nearly as good as St. Louis." I left the game thinking the Kings could beat the Blues -- probably for the first time this year.

Saturday night, everything clicked for L.A. Anze Kopitar was excellent, Dustin Brown started the play that led to the shorthanded goal with a strong move and Jonathan Quick, as always, was unbelievable. What's more is I really liked the L.A. defense. It's a very unknown group aside from Drew Doughty, but it's very good -- and very big. Matt Greene is 6-foot-3, Alec Martinez is 6-1, Doughty is 6-0 and Willie Mitchell is 6-3. That's a big defense, and they can handle that St. Louis forecheck. I was very impressed with the Kings in Game 1, even more so than I was in the series against Vancouver. Against the Canucks, I thought Quick won that series with his play, but Saturday night the Kings were every bit as good as the Blues.

If the Blues want to even the series Monday night and find a way to advance to the conference finals, they need to find a way to get to Quick. Vancouver was only able to do that once, so it's a tall order. When the Blues see the tape, they'll see they need that second shot on Quick to go upstairs. Quick is a butterfly goaltender.

Andy McDonald's chances in the first period of Game 1 were a prime example. McDonald had three chances and he hit the pads with all three shots. That second shot has to go under the bar, because Quick has those legs down on the ice taking away the bottom of the rink. You're not going to score against him down on the ice. The next one's got to go upstairs, so I think that's one thing the Blues can take out of it.

Also, they'll need to score some ugly goals. You're not going to score beautiful goals on Quick, so you've got to get in front of him, screen him and top it in, just like the Blues' first goal in Game 1. Quick never saw that shot. It hit Perron's stick, went up a little bit, and he just never saw it. That's how you've got to score on a great goaltender like Quick.

Every few years a goalie goes on a remarkable run and takes a team to the conference finals or beyond. It happened in 2010 with Jaroslav Halak in Montreal and it happened in 2003 with Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim. There's a chance we could be seeing that right now in the West with Quick and Mike Smith in Phoenix. This is a pair of teams riding hot goaltenders, which could easily lead them to the Cup Final.

The difference with L.A., however, and perhaps the reason St. Louis should be most concerned, is that it's not just Quick on that team. The Kings have to score goals for Quick and they've got a good cast of characters. I love their defense, I think Kopitar and Dustin Brown have been great, and you add in Jeff Carter and Justin Williams and that's a heck of a hockey team. The Kings have a great top two lines and they've got some great bangers and crashers on the third and fourth line.

In Game 1, the Kings looked like they really came into their own, and they have a deep lineup that can cause a lot of problems for the Blues when St. Louis isn't able to play its physical game. The Blues may be in for a bigger challenge than they expected in Round 2. And if St. Louis can't salvage a split at home tonight, it could be panic time for the top remaining seed in the West.
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Louie Korac -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blues vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 2 lineups

ST. LOUIS -- Here are the probable lineups for Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues from Scottrade Center:

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Forwards Kyle Clifford (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip) once again sit out. Healthy scratches include forwards Andrei Loktionov and Kevin Westgarth as well as defenseman Davis Drewiske, all of whom sat out Game 1.

BLUES
Andy McDonald - David Backes - Alex Steen
David Perron - Patrik Berglund - T.J. Oshie
Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Matt D'Agostini
Jamie Langenbrunner - Scott Nichol - B.J. Crombeen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Alex Pietrangelo/Ian Cole
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott
Jake Allen

Goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower body) is still out for Game 2 and Pietrangelo (undisclosed injury) will be a gametime decision. Healthy scratches include forwards Chris Stewart, Ryan Reaves, Chris Porter and Jaden Schwartz along with defensemen Kent Huskins and Cole will be a healthy scratch if Pietrangelo plays.
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:42 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 2 lineups

NEW YORK -- The only question surrounding the Rangers' lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Capitals is Brian Boyle, who has missed three games with a concussion but took part in the game-day skate Monday.

Boyle said he couldn't say for sure if he would play, but forward Brandon Dubinsky didn't participate in the practice and won't be in the lineup.

If Boyle feels ready, he'll return to the lineup in his customary role of third-line center. If not, the Rangers will probably ice the same lineup they did in Game 1 with defenseman Steve Eminger on the fourth line and John Mitchell moved up to Boyle's spot.

So here's an educated guess as to what the Rangers' lineup will look like if Boyle is back in the lineup.

RANGERS
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Brandon Prust
Artem Anisimov - John Mitchell - Mike Rupp

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

As for the Capitals, Dale Hunter kept Alexander Semin on the fourth line for a second consecutive practice. Defenseman Jeff Schultz, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, will replace Karl Alzner for Game 2. Schultz had played in Game 7 against Boston after sitting for three straight contests.

Hunter swapped wingers Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin on the top line, but Brouwer said afterward they will be in their normal spots. Here's what the Capitals will likely go with trailing 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joel Ward
Alexander Semin - Keith Aucoin - Mike Knuble

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential