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Crosby surprises Little Penguins by joining practice

Wednesday, 02.18.2015 / 3:20 PM / NHL Insider

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby did not practice on Wednesday, at least not in the conventional sense.

Crosby, along with Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, forwards Nick Spaling and Zach Sill, and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, surprised 40 children involved with the Little Penguins by taking the ice during a unique practice that took place after the NHL players had their turn.

Crosby, the Penguins, Dick's Sporting Goods and Reebok fund the Little Penguins, a youth hockey program that provides free head-to-toe equipment to 1,000 young players each year.

The Penguins captain did not participate in Pittsburgh's Wednesday practice because of a maintenance day, Penguins coach Mike Johnston said, but decided to show for the kids.

"It's a great program," Crosby said. "Obviously, there are a lot of volunteers who help out, but it's nice to get a few players out here today and these kids were hopefully enjoying themselves, getting the opportunity to play, like all of us did, at the same age. So it was a nice little time here and hopefully they had fun."

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Celebration for the 2015 NHL Stadium Series at Levi's Stadium will begin at Spectator Plaza on game day

Pregame fan festival to offer attractions for ticketed fans of all ages

Wednesday, 02.18.2015 / 12:30 PM / 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series - Kings vs. Sharks

NHL Public Relations

NEW YORK – The National Hockey League (NHL®), in conjunction with the city of Santa Clara, Calif., will celebrate the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ – the much anticipated regular-season outdoor game between the Los Angeles Kings® and San Jose Sharks® on Feb. 21 – with Spectator Plaza, a hockey-themed festival for ticketed fans located just outside of Levi's® Stadium on game day.

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 21 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. PT

WHERE: Levi's® Stadium, between Gates A and C

WHAT: A pre-game celebration of hockey with live musical performances; interactive, family friendly games and attractions; prizes and giveaways; food and beverages; retail tents with an extensive selection of officially licensed 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ merchandise and collectibles; and more. A 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ game ticket is required for entry.

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Fantasy top 60 'D': Injury void of Ducks' Vatanen

Wednesday, 02.18.2015 / 12:14 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with in-depth defensemen analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer will be your go-to guy for fantasy blue line advice all season long.

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen first tantalized fantasy owners last season when he averaged .44 points over 48 games as a rookie. He improved upon that this season by averaging .60 points over 57 games.

Unfortunately, he left during the first period of the Ducks' 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday with a lower-body injury that is expected to keep him out of action for 4-6 weeks.

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Inside the matchup: Red Wings vs. Blackhawks

Wednesday, 02.18.2015 / 9:54 AM / Tale of the Tape

NHL.com

The Chicago Blackhawks continue their longest homestand of the season when the Detroit Red Wings come to United Center in this week's edition of Wednesday Night Rivalry (7:30 p.n. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports).

Chicago is 2-0-2 at the halfway point of an eight-game homestand, but the Blackhawks are coming off back-to-back victories against the New Jersey Devils (3-1) and Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1 in a shootout). Overall, they are 4-0-2 in their past six games and are trying to make up ground on the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues, the top two teams in the Central Division.

Detroit is 0-2-1 in its past three games and is coming off a 2-0 home loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday. That was one of only two games for the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena this month; the visit to Chicago begins a six-game trip that will include a swing through California.

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Five things to watch in Rivalry Night doubleheader

Wednesday, 02.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Chicago Blackhawks have won back-to-back games and are four points shy of second place in the Central Division. The Detroit Red Wings have lost three in a row and are about to begin a grueling six-game road trip against Western Conference teams.

Chicago (35-18-4) has earned points in six straight games, including a 2-1 shootout victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. The Red Wings have scored five goals over their three-game skid. Detroit (31-14-10), which is coming off a 2-0 loss against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, trail Montreal by six points in the Atlantic Division and the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning by four.

The Blackhawks, who are 2-0-2 in the first half of their eight-game homestand, will try to continue their winning ways when they host the Red Wings in the first game of a Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader at United Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports).

In the nightcap, the Los Angeles Kings will face the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center (NBCSN, 10 p.m. ET). Los Angeles (26-18-12) extended its win streak to five with a 3-2 victory against the Lightning on Monday. The surge has allowed the Kings to pull within two points of the San Jose Sharks for the second wild-card spot in the West. The Avalanche (24-22-11) will be seeking their third straight win after defeating the Arizona Coyotes 5-2 on Monday.

Here are five things to watch in the two Wednesday Night Rivalry games:

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Iginla believes Avalanche heading in right direction

Wednesday, 02.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- It's been a disappointing season for the Colorado Avalanche, to say the least. They're last in the Central Division following a surprising first-place finish a year ago and have plenty of work to do to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But veteran forward Jarome Iginla, who signed a three-year, $16 million contract as a free agent July 1, said he has no regrets about joining the Avalanche and hasn't given up hope about climbing back into the playoff picture.

The Avalanche (24-22-11) trail the Vancouver Canucks by seven points for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference and figure they'll need 36 points in the final 25 games to make it.

"Hopefully we light it up the rest of the year," Iginla, 37, told NHL.com. "We're not writing the year off yet. We're still looking to have a great finish."

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Red Wings' Zetterberg healthy, producing at elite level

Wednesday, 02.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Paul Harris - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- Henrik Zetterberg feels better physically this season than he has in a long time.

That's in direct contrast to 2013-14, when the Detroit Red Wings captain continued to deal with a back issue that nagged him for the previous few years.

Finally, after Sweden's first game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Zetterberg's back had enough.

He came back to the United States, where he had surgery to remove part of a disc that was rubbing against a nerve, and he missed the rest of the regular season. He returned in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the final two games of Detroit's five-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Zetterberg, 34, who was limited to 45 regular-season games, didn't really know what to expect coming into 2014-15, his 12th NHL season.

"It's been good, it's been fun to be playing," Zetterberg said. "Last year I just want to scratch from the memory bank. This year coming in I didn't really know how to feel. I've been skating well. I've been feeling good health-wise."

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Doug Wilson reflects on Sharks' long journey

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks have shared many firsts.

In 1991, Wilson was a member of the first Sharks team. He was there when the Sharks played their first game against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 4, 1991, and there the next night when the Sharks played their first game on home ice against those same Canucks.

He was there Oct. 8 when the Sharks won their first game against the Calgary Flames, 4-3, at Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., where they played their home games their first two seasons; Wilson assisted on the first goal of the game. Wilson was the Sharks' first captain and their first representative in an NHL All-Star Game.

So it's only fitting that 22 years after he retired from his playing career, Wilson is Sharks general manager when they host their first outdoor game, the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2).

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Sharks, Kings conquer slumps in EPIX episode 3

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

If the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the events of the past week may be remembered as critical for each team.

The third episode of "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Stadium Series" chronicles the Sharks' search for answers while they slumped and the Kings' rise after struggles of their own. Along the way, there is lots of storytelling away from the ice.

It begins with an inside look at a San Jose power-play meeting, a scene that is one of the most revealing of this genre for the NHL. Sharks coach Todd McLellan has video and facts prepared as he implores them to place more value on their extra-man opportunities.

McLellan asks defenseman Brent Burns if there are any teams in the NHL that can place five better players on the ice than San Jose's top power-play unit. Burns' response, "No," and McLellan's retort, "No, not even [expletive] close," illuminates the frustrations for everyone involved as they watch video and the coach meticulously points out mistakes.

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Preparations for Stadium Series game are on schedule

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Don Renzulli, the NHL's executive vice president of events, got a pleasant surprise when he headed to work at Levi's Stadium on Tuesday.

The skies were overcast and the temperature was cool enough to need a jacket during the day for the first time since preparations began in earnest eight days ago for the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings.

"This is perfect weather for a hockey game; overcast," Renzulli said.

And not bad weather for making ice at the home of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.

Workmen continued walking up and down the rink, spraying water from an eight-foot wide wand and thickening the sheet of ice for Saturday night's game.

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Quote of the Day

I don't think it's really truly going to sink in until we drop the puck, to be honest. I know there's going to be a lot of smoke and mirrors with the media attention and all that. We came [Monday] and it was sort of a light day to get things organized. We just want to focus in on the business aspect, the game itself. That's what we're preparing to do. Get these next couple of days out of the way and it's game on.

— Lightning captain Steven Stamkos on playing in his first Stanley Cup Final