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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 12:14 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Preds' brilliance, Coyotes' struggles intrigue Roenick

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Two teams out in the Western Conference have piqued my interest this week. One is red-hot and deserves our attention; the other is near and dear to my heart, but needs some type of jolt to get back in the hunt. Read on to find out who I'm talking about and why:


What's Clicking?

The Nashville Predators are on fire despite having very little fanfare around them other than Ryan Suter's contract talks.

The Predators don't get the respect and the attention they deserve, but I can tell you they're a team I didn't like playing against. They're a very tough, stingy, competitive team, and it seems their coach, Barry Trotz, is a wonderful guy.

He's extremely smart and he seems like a good players' coach. He always has a very solid, sound system that he displays to his team. His team believes in the system and plays hard for him. Every single night they are disciplined, they work hard and they are sound defensively.

If there is any one knock against the Predators it would be their lack of consistent goal scoring, but lately they've found ways to win games by scoring goals. Mike Fisher is scoring like crazy right now. When Martin Erat starts scoring a little bit more, the Predators are going to be even harder to beat than they are right now, and in the last 15 games they are 13-2.

Look at the standings. Nashville is only three points behind the top spot in the National Hockey League, and yet you don't really hear anything about that. It's disappointing to me, because the Predators have paid their dues. They've sat in the basement, worked their way back to respectability, and now they are arguably one of the strongest and most disciplined teams in the NHL.

Pekka Rinne is one of the best goaltenders in the world and he's anchored by probably the best tandem in the NHL with Shea Weber and Suter.

Hopefully Suter's contract situation doesn't distract this team and he's able to sign eventually. We'll see what happens with that, but right now I'm just very impressed watching this team play hard together, play a very organized system.

Trotz is one of the most tenured coaches in the NHL right now, and I don't think anybody should question why he's been in Nashville for so long. His team really loves playing for him and always responds to his coaching tactics.

I would not want to play this team in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trust me, I know they're a very difficult and frustrating team to play.

What's Missing?

The Phoenix Coyotes are very dear to me. They're a team I love to cheer. You can see how hard they work on a consistent basis and are backed by a fantastic coach in Dave Tippett, but they're also a team that I seriously worry about right now.

The Coyotes lost Tuesday night at home to Anaheim and are just 3-4-3 in their past 10 games. They sit No. 12 in the Western Conference because for some reason they can't get over the hump; they can't string three, four or five wins together to find their way back into the top eight.

They're a team without any major superstars or big-time goal scorers they can market and be that game-breaker, so in my opinion GM Don Maloney has to start thinking about making a trade for a proven scorer before it's too late. He has to do it in order to have an opportunity to make the playoffs this season.

And we all know how important it is for the Coyotes to make the playoffs and get that extra revenue from selling out the building for playoff games. They can't afford to miss the playoffs.

Radim Vrbata is trying his hardest to be that offensive punch, but Phoenix is not going to rally around Radim Vrbata. I mean no disrespect to him, because he's a fantastic player and he should have been in the All-Star Game this year, but the Coyotes need a marquee player.

The first name that comes to mind is Jeff Carter from Columbus. I know he has a big contract, 10 years and millions still left on his deal, and he has not played his best as a Blue Jacket. But this could be one of those cases where desperate times call for desperate measures.

If they want to get into the playoffs, they need a marquee guy that is going to score on a nightly basis. And I don't think they're going to be able to get a consistent, marquee goal scorer on the cheap.

The Coyotes are a very difficult team to play against because of their defensive structure and hard work, but they always seem to lose in overtime or by one goal. And by getting a marquee goal scorer, if they can, I think the Coyotes can make the playoffs and therefore make some extra money that would greatly enhance the interest in Phoenix.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 11:27 AM

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

Melrose Place: Second-Half Step Ups

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 11:23 AM

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

Melrose Match Up: Red Wings at Canucks

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 2:19 AM

By Matt Dumba -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Matt Dumba draft blog

Dumba had fun with testing, skills competition

Matt Dumba is a defenseman for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. The 5-foot-11.75, 183-pound defenseman was named WHL Rookie of the Year after scoring 15 goals and adding 11 assists in 62 games. He also had a tournament-high 12 points -- all assists -- to help Canada Pacific win the bronze medal at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. This summer, he played for Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Tournament and also took part in the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Dumba has offered to maintain a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Greetings from the Top Prospects Game.

Today was a pretty interesting day. It started in the morning with the Next Testing. That was a different experience. I hadn't done that testing before, on or off the ice. It was neat to see. Some of the other guys, they had done it before so I let those guys go ahead of me and see how it's done and I just did my best, worked hard.

On the ice, I thought some of it was kind of awkward. You're used to getting that freedom to skate where you want in practice. It was so structured, but it was fun. I liked the pivoting and the stops, I was pretty good at them. It was a neat experience.

Off the ice, we did jump tests, our vertical leap and grip strength. Those were different. I've never done the grip strength before. It was fun to see."

I know a lot of NHL scouts were watching, and I hope they saw positive things. I think I went out there and gave it my all. It's pretty neat knowing there's so many guys out there watching and critiquing all the time. You've got to be on your game at all times. It was a really good experience.

The skills contest was a lot of fun. Sitting in the room, you don't really know all the guys, but you realize they're all really great guys. Everyone is so friendly. It's easy to make talk, especially with the guys from your own league, it's easy to talk like that. And I played on the World Under-18 team with a lot of the guys, so we're good buddies like that. You're kind of nervous and stuff, but all day today, everyone said to just make sure you're having fun out there and that's what I did.

I did the hardest shot contest. It was different. I've never done anything like that. I never really knew how hard my shot was. Going in I knew I had a decent shot. I was looking forward to seeing where I fit in amongst the hardest shooters. I guess I fell in right in the middle of the pack. It was good.

I shot 90.6 and 91.2 mph. I was happy to see it. I think, if anything, guys were saying I've got to shoot the puck lower to register a faster time.

I think the fastest skater contest really got me going. It's pretty dangerous, guys are going so fast. Going into those turns, you don't want to see anyone fall. They're doing that at such a high speed, it's pretty amazing to see the guys wheel like that.

The 3-on-3 contest that ended the night, that was different. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was fun. It's tough with such great caliber of guys, they know how to use the ice so efficiently. No one's playing defense, it was just go-go-go. But it was lots of fun.

Overall it was a fun night, but I'm looking forward more to tomorrow night and the real game. My game and competitive edge really shows in games rather than skills competition and friendly 3-on-3. I made a hit in the 3-on-3 and didn't think really anyone liked that. I toned it down after that and just worked on skating hard and making sure we were trying to score a goal. It wasn't even that bad, just finishing a light check on the boards. I don't know what the fans were expecting. Tomorrow night everyone will be going and it'll be really competitive.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 2:00 AM

By Ryan Murray -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Ryan Murray draft blog

Murray finishes second in hardest shot competition

Defenseman Ryan Murray is captain of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League. The 6-foot, 182-pound native of Saskatchewan was recently named captain for Team Cherry at the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Kelowna, B.C. He took second place in 'Hardest Shot' at the Top Prospects Skills Competition with a blast of 94.3 mph. He recently won a bronze medal playing for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Despite the busy schedule, Murray continues to provide a monthly blog for NHL.com that will chronicle his season leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Hi all. I just finished up at the Top Prospects Skills Competition and was pretty happy to get second in the hardest shot event. It's a pretty simple event. You just go in there, wind up and smack it as hard as you can ... not much skill to it. But it was fun.

I told (Nick Ebert) before he went up for his shot that he was going to beat me, because I knew he had a pretty hard shot. And Nick did wind up winning (with a shot of 94.7 mph). I really hadn't recorded my shot in quite some time -- last time I checked, I hit the puck 37 mph.

I thought maybe I could have done well in the fastest skater event. I love the breakaway shootouts, for sure. That would have been fun, as well. Overall, though, this was great. It's nice that they mix in some fun with the game. I know everybody is kind of nervous. You have one game to kind of prove yourself in front of a ton of scouts, so it's good to loosen things up with the skills competition.

That 3-on-3we had in the end was a little tiring. Staying out there for 40-second shifts is a long time when you only have three guys on the ice. There's a lot of skating out there. I give credit to the goalies. I thought the goaltending was good. They are forced to stop shootouts and it gets tough on the goalies. Even on those 3-on-3's ... there's a lot of backdoor passes and they were good sports with everything that was going on.

I can tell you there's a lot of excitement for (Wednesday's Top Prospects Game). Everyone in the locker room is excited and nervous at the same time. But these are the games we all love to play and everybody is watching, so it'll be fun.

I've seen some scouts during my stay here in Kelowna while at my hotel, but they've stayed clear and out of everyone's way for the most part. There was a New York Rangers scout in our elevator (Tuesday), so they're kind of around. He didn't ask any serious questions or anything. He just said hello and told me to have fun. They introduce themselves, but aren't asking any serious draft questions.

Well, time to get some sleep before practice Wednesday morning and the game in the evening. Thanks for reading.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:23 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Skills competition winners

KELOWNA, B.C. - The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Skills Competition is under way here at Prospera Place.

Results:

Fastest skater: 1-Francis Beauvillier (Rimouski Oceanic) 14.132. 2-Branden Troock (Seattle Thunderbirds) 14.356. 3-Damon Severson (Kelowna Rockets) 14.542.

Hardest shot: 1-Nick Ebert (Windsor Spitfires) 94.7. 2-Ryan Murray (Everett Silvertips) 94.3. 3-Chandler Stephenson (Regina Pats) 94.1.

Accuracy: 1-Gianluca Curcuruto (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) 4 hits on 5 attempts (1 for 1 in tie-breaker). 2-Scott Laughton (Oshawa Generals) 4 hits on 5 attempts (0 for 1 in tie-breaker). 3-Tom Wilson (Plymouth Whalers) 4 hits on 6 attempts.

Showdown Breakaway Challenge: 1-Radek Faksa (Kitchener Rangers). 2-Tim Bozon (Kamloops Blazers). Faksa shootout winner in tie-breaker against Bozon came on backhand lift from in tight off Matthew Murray of Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:22 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

NSH @ MIN - 9:22 of the Third Period

At 9:22 of the third period in the Predators/Wild game, video review conclusively determined that Brandon Yip's shot completely crossed the goal line. Good Goal Minnesota.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Live Blog: NHL.com at CHL Top Prospects Game

Kelowna boys receive loudest ovation

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Not surprisingly, Kelowna Rockets captain Colton Sissons and defenseman Damon Severson received the loudest ovation during pre-game introductions for the CHL/NHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Skills Competition here at Prospera Place.

Sissons, ranked No. 14 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, is currently in this second season with the Rockets. He's produced 26 goals and 38 points in 51 games this season for Kelowna.

"It's definitely more comfortable for me being there than for some of the guys coming into Kelowna," Sissons told NHL.com. "I'm used to it here. Our fans will be loud and into it, and hopefully all our fans will get to enjoy our fans like I do night in and night out."

Sissons will participate in the showdown breakaway contest for Team Orr.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:58 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

DET @ CGY - 19:09 of the First Period

At 19:09 of the first period in the Flames/Wings game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Dan Cleary's backhand did not cross the goal line. No Goal Detroit.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 9:42 PM

NHL.com - 2011-2012 Situation Room blog

TOR @ PIT - 19:53 of the Third Period

At 19:53 of the third period in the Maple Leafs/Penguins game, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that James Neal's shot deflected off Evgeni Malkin's chest and into the net in a legal fashion. According to rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed." Good Goal Pittsburgh.

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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh