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Canucks' aim: Get better while getting younger

Thursday, 04.30.2015 / 12:03 AM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks' management team is committed to making the team younger during its second offseason in charge, but only if it makes the club better as well.

And even if it means a second straight summer of asking veterans to waive no-trade clauses.

Speaking for the first time being eliminated by the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference First Round on Saturday, general manager Jim Benning and director of hockey operations Trevor Linden reiterated their plan to supplement an aging core with younger players without sacrificing the goal of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We don't plan on taking any steps backwards," said Linden, who was hired last April and brought in Benning a month later. "We are trying to win. We are trying to make the playoffs, and we are going to do everything we can to do that. Having said that, we have to keep a firm eye on the future and we need to develop players. But we can't put players in the lineup that aren't ready to play."

Linden and Benning answered questions about the sustainability of an aging core that is 3-12 in the playoffs since reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. There was plenty of talk about turning over a roster that has eight key players who are 31 or older and two more who will turn 30 next season, but Benning and Linden made it clear that the youth movement will be a gradual process.

Lightning advance to face Canadiens in second round

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 10:46 PM / Canadiens vs Senators - 2015 SCP First Round

David Satriano - Staff Writer

The Tampa Bay Lightning will face the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Second Round after defeating the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 in Game 7 of their first-round series at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

Game 1 is Friday at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Canadiens, who finished two points ahead of Tampa Bay to win the Atlantic Division, lost all five games to the Lightning during the regular season (0-4-1) after sweeping them in the 2014 Eastern Conference First Round.

Ovechkin, Price, Tavares voted Hart Trophy finalists

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 7:00 PM / 2015 NHL Awards

NHL Public Relations

NEW YORK – Forward Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, goaltender Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and forward John Tavares of the New York Islanders are the three finalists for the 2014-15 Hart Memorial Trophy, which is awarded "to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team," the National Hockey League announced today.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association submitted ballots for the Hart Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 24, during the 2015 NHL Awards from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Subban, proud of Norris nod, focused on winning Cup

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 6:06 PM / Canadiens vs Lightning - 2015 SCP Second Round

Sean Farrell - Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- P.K. Subban's father is living out a dream with every bit of recognition his famous son receives, including the Montreal Canadiens defenseman's second nomination for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman.

Subban, who won the Norris in 2012-13, was named a finalist Monday with Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.

Subban was two wins short of reaching the Stanley Cup Final last year, and he and his Montreal teammates, including Vezina and Hart trophy nominee Carey Price, again have their sights set on winning the League's biggest trophy.

"It's always great when you get recognized individually, but we've got a lot of players on our team that have had great seasons individually this year," Subban said after practice Wednesday. "When you have a bunch of guys that can put together good seasons, usually the team success is doing well also. But when you look around the League, there's a lot of players who are top of the League in scoring or having great individual years but their teams aren't in the playoffs or doing that well in the standings."

Flames preparing for size mismatch against Ducks

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 5:32 PM / Ducks vs Flames - 2015 SCP Second Round

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman doesn't need a reminder that Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf is 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds. Kris Russell, Wideman's defense partner, is aware Corey Perry is 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds. TJ Brodie knows Ryan Kesler is 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds.

But Flames coach Bob Hartley has a simple solution for his defense to survive the size mismatch Anaheim presents heading into Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round series at Honda Center on Thursday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

"Skate around them," Hartley said. "They're very dangerous. They're big and they're fast."

Blackhawks know penalty kill must be better vs. Wild

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 5:26 PM / Blackhawks vs Wild - 2015 SCP Second Round

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Penalty killing was a big reason the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the Stanley Cup Playoffs the previous two years.

It might be key again heading into a third straight postseason series between the Central Division rivals, which starts at United Center on Friday in Game 1 of a Western Conference Second Round series (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2).

The Blackhawks, who struggled to kill penalties at the end of the regular season, didn't improve in their Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators. They rank 13th among playoff teams, allowing six power-play goals in 22 times shorthanded (72.7 percent) and know they have to improve quickly. The Wild scored four power-play goals in 12 opportunities against the St. Louis Blues in the first round and their 33.3 percent success rate leads playoff teams.

"When it doesn't work you always try to make some adjustments," Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger said Wednesday after practice. "We're not happy with how that series went in [the penalty-killing] aspect, but we have a new chance here playing Minnesota. They've got a good power play, so we have to get better in that area to be successful."

Assertiveness makes Johansson Capitals' X-factor

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 4:45 PM / X-Factor

Katie Brown - Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz gave a simple piece of advice to forward Marcus Johansson: Shoot the puck more.

It worked. Johansson set NHL career highs in goals (20) and points (47) this season.

"I've always kind of been a pass-first guy, but I think shooting more, that creates more room for myself," Johansson said. "It's been fun. Scoring is fun and I don't mind doing it."

Coming off last season season when he scored eight goals, two at even strength, Johansson was frustrated, but Trotz, in his first season with Washington, knew he could help.

"One of the things I thought with Marcus is he needed to shoot more," Trotz said. "I thought Marcus had more to give in his game. He's a tremendously talented, very, very bright player."

Matchups make Vanek Wild's X-factor vs. Blackhawks

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 3:54 PM / Blackhawks vs Wild - 2015 SCP Second Round

Dan Myers - Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks are not strangers when it comes to Stanley Cup Playoff hockey.

Wild forward Thomas Vanek, however, is new to the matchup, and could be a difference-maker.

For the third consecutive season, the Central Division rivals will play in the postseason, this time in the Western Conference Second Round for the second consecutive year.

Game 1 is Friday at United Center in Chicago (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Blues players, management bracing for change

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 3:51 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It's a question the St. Louis Blues were hoping to avoid after past Stanley Cup Playoff failures but one that became unavoidable following another defeat in the Western Conference First Round.

What's next?

That's the lingering question the Blues can't seem to shake following a third straight defeat in the first round, this one against the Minnesota Wild, who will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.

According to players, they expect personnel change, which made saying goodbye tougher.

"More saying goodbye to everybody when you know that there's guys that won't be here next year in the locker room," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "You just kind of have to deal with that harsh reality that things are going to change. It's never easy to really to deal with that."

Canadiens' Beaulieu out at least next four games

Wednesday, 04.29.2015 / 3:33 PM / Canadiens vs Lightning - 2015 SCP Second Round

Sean Farrell - Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu will miss at least the first four games of their Eastern Conference Second Round series.

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin made the announcement after practice Wednesday as the Canadiens prepare for Game 1 on Friday, when they will host the winner of first-round series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game 7 of that series is Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, NBCSN, TVA Sports 2, FS-D, SUN).

Beaulieu missed the final three games of Montreal's six-game first round win against the Ottawa Senators because of an upper-body injury sustained in the second period of Game 3.

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Quote of the Day

It's obviously not fun to not know, but on the other hand, I'm not in a rush. I'm going to be back to 100 percent before I start playing. I'm not going to play on 90 percent.

— Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom in an interview with Washington Post about whether he will be able to play in 2015-16 opener