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Southeast: Stamkos making his mark as a teen

Friday, 02.05.2010 / 5:00 PM / Division Notebooks

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Southeast: Stamkos making his mark as a teen
Sophomore jinx? What sophomore jinx? Staven Stamkos has been on a roll with the Tampa Bay Lightning in only his second season.
Can you name the three active players in the NHL to have reached 100 career points as a teenager?

Well, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby became the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points in a season -- at 18 years, 253 days -- after setting up 3 goals in a 6-1 victory over the Islanders on April 17, 2006. New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 100th point via a goal on Feb. 8, 2003, against the Ottawa Senators at the age of 19 years, 299 days, as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.

And most recently, there's Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, who hit the century mark with an assist on Jan. 29 in a 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim at the ripe young age of 19 years, 356 days. The pride of Markham, Ontario, who has already established career highs with 31 goals, 29 assists and 60 points this season, has 106 points in 135 career games.

"I didn't know that, that's a pretty cool stat, a pretty nice club to be in I guess," Stamkos told Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune. "I don't want to sound arrogant, but I don't think I'm too surprised, maybe a little surprised, but you kind of have to believe in yourself."

"He's produced in certain spots during games, he's scored some pretty big goals for us in the year-and-a-half he's been here and that says a lot when you have a 19-year-old like that," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said of Stamkos. "You are always looking for that player who scores in big games at big times and he has that pedigree that he can do that."

Stamkos leads the League with 13 power-play goals and needs three more to tie the single-season franchise record held by Vincent Lecavalier and Brian Bradley.

"Obviously the second half of last season went well, you have that confidence and when you have that confidence in your ability, you feel strong and you know you are going to get the opportunity to play a lot right away," Stamkos said. "It's nice to see the consistency, and you are going to go through droughts, but to have the points I do now is definitely pleasing. I think I am maybe a little surprised, but you always have to have that belief in yourself and know you can be that player."

'Canes bid for All-Star Game -- No better time than the present to submit those bids to host a future NHL All-Star Game with the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics less than two weeks away.

That's precisely what Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford was thinking last week when his team was in Manhattan to take on the New York Rangers. It's something Rutherford and team owner Peter Karmonos, Jr. would certainly want to see happen. The NHL has asked teams interested in hosting an All-Star Game in 2011, 2012 or 2013 to submit their application by Feb. 8.

Rutherford and Karmonos feel hosting an All Star Game would offer a tremendous boon for the capital city of North Carolina. Not to mention the fact fans would absolutely go bonkers for All-Star Weekend. After all, the RBC Center in Raleigh drew the largest opening-day crowd (15,672) to witness an NHL Entry Draft in over a decade on June 26, 2004, when it hosted the League's annual selection process for the second time in franchise history. Rutherford and Karmonos also hosted the 1994 Entry Draft at the Civic Center when the team was located in Hartford.

"We're hoping to get (the All-Star Game) sooner than later," Rutherford told NHL.com. "We had a very successful NHL draft in Raleigh and some of the things we didn't have at that time, we do now -- like a 5,000-square foot beautiful new convention center attached to a 4-star Marriott hotel. There are several other new hotels and a totally renovated airport, so this would be a great market to host an NHL All Star Game."

Despite the tough economy, Rutherford still sees plenty of promise for hockey in Raleigh.

"It goes up and down, dictated by the economy on how much money people have to spend and, of course, team performance," he said. "Really, it's no different than any other market, but the growth of hockey here has grown year after year.

"We're in one of those down years where the team is not as good, the economy is not as good but we're holding our own," he continued. "Our attendance is not at the level where we'd like it to be -- it dropped off about 10 percent. But I think with everything we've dealt with this year, we've shown once again we have very strong fan base."

Wolverines in Washington -- It took 14 years, but Washington Capitals forwards Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison are enjoying life on the same team once again.

Knuble and Morrison, who were linemates for two seasons at the University of Michigan in 1993-94 and 1994-95, have each played key roles since joining the Caps over the summer. Knuble, who has 36 points in 45 games, signed as a free agent on July 1 and Morrison, with 31 points in 57 contests, joined him nine days later.

Having a familiar face in the dressing room upon his arrival from Dallas made the transition an easy one for Morrison.

"We went to school in Michigan so I'm very familiar with him -- we stayed in touch over the years and we're kind of the two new guys to the team this year so we were in the same boat," Morrison told 106.7 The Fan in Washington. "You don't feel like a total outcast because you have a guy you can lean on. When everyone is making inside jokes from last year, you can kind of look at each other and say, "What's going on here?"

"But, really, the guys have been great since day one," Morrison said. "It's been a seamless transition and I think since we were a couple of older guys (Morrison 34, Knuble 37) we might have garnered their respect a little quicker than, say, a younger guy."

For Morrison, who also played with the Devils, Canucks, and Ducks over a career that has spanned 12-plus seasons, the Capitals are unique in their own way.

"I've been on talented teams throughout my career but this team is the deepest I've ever been on," Morrison said. "We're averaging over 4 goals a game and for a team to average that many in today's NHL is really unheard of. Right now, we have a lot of different weapons, guys are rolling and it's been enjoyable."

Knuble, meanwhile, certainly has the blessing of team captain Alex Ovechkin.

"For the first couple weeks when we played together, it was pretty hard to understand each other," Ovechkin told Mike Loftus of The Patriot Ledger. "Now we understand each other and have good chemistry. You can see how we play. He goes to the front of the net, and we try to create some shots. He's (creating) traffic, and finding rebounds."

Is this the year? -- Perhaps this is the season when the Florida Panthers snap out of their long playoff drought.

With five games remaining before the Olympic break, the Panthers are knocking on the door as the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference. The team hasn't played beyond the regular season since the 1999-2000 campaign when it was eliminated in the Conference quarterfinal round -- that's an eight-season playoff sabbatical.

"It's like last year, it's very tight again," Panthers forward David Booth said. "A lot of teams are separated by only two points. For me, it's good to be back in the lineup and trying to help because that's when you feel like you're a part of it. When you're sitting on the sidelines watching the team, you feel like you can't do anything. But I'm happy to be back and I want to be a part of this playoff push."

Booth, of course, missed 45 games while recovering from a concussion he received more than three months ago. But he returned to the lineup last Sunday, notching an assist in a 2-0 victory over the New York Islanders at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.

"There were a few rusty parts, but I just enjoyed being out there," Booth said. "Winning is fun, and I enjoyed it. This is the first step. I still have a long way to go. I'm going to keep pushing myself to be back where I need to be."

Said coach Pete DeBoer: "He took a few bumps out there. There was nowhere to hide. He wasn't shy. He was giving and taking hits. It was good to see him jump in with both feet."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com


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— Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien after a 3-2 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday to snap a three-game losing streak
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