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Features

Forsberg's continued success paces Calder race

Friday, 03.06.2015 / 3:00 AM / Trophy Tracker

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

With three-quarters of the 2014-15 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of the biggest storylines and award contenders.

Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg could never have predicted this type of success on and off the ice in his first full NHL season.

In addition to leading the Predators and NHL rookies in scoring, Forsberg played in the NHL All-Star Game and won a new Honda Accord as the last pick for Team Toews in the 2015 All-Star Fantasy Draft.

He has proven to be a versatile performer for Predators coach Peter Laviolette, who for most of the season played the 20-year-old Swede on the top line.

"I'm sure he's more confident now playing first-line minutes and the first power-play," Laviolette said. "I think when you have success and knowing where our team is in the standings, he's having a strong year and that builds confidence in him. He might not have had that same confidence when the season started, but watching him in development camp, rookie camp and training camp, he was always a consistent player, a top player."

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Coyotes' Smith to honor Alice Cooper with new mask

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 8:42 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

The Arizona Coyotes will go retro on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, donning throwback jerseys on a night they will honor former forward Jeremy Roenick.

Another figure from the Coyotes hockey scene will also be honored, just a bit more subtly. Goalie Mike Smith will wear a special mask for the game with rock icon Alice Cooper painted on its back plate.

"The coolest thing about the helmet is the back plate," Smith said in a video on the Coyotes website. "It's a tribute to Alice Cooper, who's been a lifer as a Coyote fan and a big supporter of the team."

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Leopold's daughter on letter requesting trade to Wild

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 2:00 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Jordyn Leopold figured why not?

She missed her father, NHL defenseman Jordan Leopold, and wanted him to come home, so back in January she wrote a letter to the Minnesota Wild with the hope of getting Jordan back to the State of Hockey because her father was lonely in Ohio without Jordyn, her mother and her three siblings.

"I thought it might work to get him home," Jordyn, 11, told the Wild website. "I didn't think the letter [had a huge impact] but it could've."

"The Letter" has gone viral since it surfaced on March 2 shortly after Jordan was traded to the Minnesota Wild at the NHL Trade Deadline. The Wild acquired Leopold from the Blue Jackets for defenseman Justin Falk and a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

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Top performer: Howard's effort carries Red Wings

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 12:20 PM / Top Performer

NHL.com

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard showed why he's among the NHL's best Wednesday against the New York Rangers.

Back at Joe Louis Arena from a six-game, 10-day road trip, the Red Wings were outshot 40-31 but managed a 2-1 win against the Rangers thanks to Howard. After allowing a power-play goal to Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in the first period Howard made 29 saves the rest of the way, including a few that bailed out the Red Wings.

"I thought [Howard] was good," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News. "I thought we looked like we'd been on a long road trip and got back, and we were wearing snow shoes. Turned the puck over a lot."

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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Capitals' Holtby finds rhythm

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 12:15 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top 30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.

Of goalies currently ranked in Yahoo's top 21 overall fantasy players (of which there are four, and would likely be five if not for the long-term injury to Henrik Lundqvist), only one began the season with a pre-ranking outside of the top 50.

It's not Carey Price, who is leading the Vezina Trophy race and is arguably the NHL and fantasy MVP this season. It's not Pekka Rinne, whose return to health has also signaled a return to form. And it's not Marc-Andre Fleury, whose eight shutouts currently pace all goaltenders in the League.

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Unmasked: Situation shows need for third goalie

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / Unmasked

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

It shouldn't have taken craziness in the Florida Panthers crease on Tuesday to remind teams of the importance of always having three NHL-capable goaltenders in their organization.

OK, it's rare to need three in the same game, which happened when Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured against the Toronto Maple Leafs, setting off a wild scramble that saw each of them play while injured and 41-year-old goalie coach Robb Tallas gear up.

It's also becoming increasingly rare for a team to make it through an entire NHL season without using a third goaltender.

Six teams this season have played only two goalies, and that number will drop when Dan Ellis, who was called up by the Panthers on Wednesday, starts Thursday against the Dallas Stars. The Stars have used four goalies this season, one of six teams to do so. It will become seven teams when the New York Islanders use Michal Neuvirth.

So far this season, 87 goalies have appeared in at least one NHL game. Last season, 97 goalies got into a game, and three teams (the New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks) got through the season playing two.

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Hitchcock changed Blues into Stanley Cup contender

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- From the moment Ken Hitchcock was named St. Louis Blues coach in 2011, the idea was for him to help drive them back to respectability.

With the Blues set to play the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN360), it was another day of preparation Wednesday for what they have been striving for: to be among, if not the best in the League with hopes of an extended run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Hitchcock, who is 697-423-95 with 88 ties in 18 seasons, hopes people don't judge the Blues and their body of work simply on playoff success.

The work has been arduous at times, and there certainly have been challenges, but the rewards of having them on the cusp of success has been rewarding.

"I don't think you can guarantee any success in the postseason; every team tries for six weeks," Hitchcock said. "I think your body of work, I'm like everybody else living in St. Louis; we want to have more success in the postseason than we've ever had, unlike everybody else. But your body of work tells you everything about the coaching staff."

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All-around play of Penguins' Letang calls for Norris

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / Trophy Tracker

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

With three-quarters of the 2014-15 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of the biggest storylines and award contenders.

Kris Letang has developed a reputation for being an offensive defenseman, a player who can contribute on the score sheet from his position on the blue line. And lately, when it comes to awarding the distinction of best defenseman in the NHL, offense has been a major component of the conversation.

The past five Norris Trophy winners have finished either first or second among defensemen in scoring, three times leading defensemen in points (Duncan Keith in 2013-14, P.K. Subban in 2012-13, and Erik Karlsson in 2011-12). It's created some conversation about what criteria is and is not factoring into the voting.

Letang leads defensemen in scoring this season, but it's what he's added to his game at the other end of the ice, and how well-rounded it has become that makes him the Norris favorite at this point.

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Crouse gained confidence with complete effort at WJC

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Prior to the start of selection camp for the Canadian National Junior Team in December, director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski informed forward Lawson Crouse that doing the three things he does best would better serve his chances of earning a roster spot for the World Junior Championship.

The checklist included being first on the forecheck, finishing his checks and putting "the odd puck in the net in the blue paint." Nothing new to Crouse, since he considers himself an energy guy capable of doing the little things necessary to succeed. He also has one heck of a shot.

While no one would mistake Crouse for fellow 2015 NHL Draft-eligible center Connor McDavid, he did exactly what he was told to do and as a result played a vital fourth-line role in a gold medal-winning performance.

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Coyotes to honor Roenick, don throwback jerseys

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Coming from the Chicago Blackhawks, an Original Six franchise with history and tradition, to the Arizona desert and a team in its inaugural season was a big change in itself for Jeremy Roenick 19 years ago.

But when he was introduced at a press conference as a new Phoenix Coyote in August 1996, Roenick had another surprise waiting: the color-splashed, kachina-inspired sweater he slipped into in front of the cameras.

But there was one more surprise: He loved the "RoboCoyote" right away.

"I know that jersey gets a lot of grief, but I liked it. I liked it from the first time I saw it," Roenick said. "Not everyone liked them and it was about 50-50 in the dressing room. There was a lot of, 'I can't believe we have to wear this thing.' I don't think (Coyotes captain) Keith Tkachuk liked them very much, but he doesn't like anything, so what's new?

"But to me, they were creative and unique and they were colorful. They stood out."

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Quote of the Day

We have to develop into a good team. We have to develop the pieces now that are a little more evident and in place to become a good team. It's not there yet.

— Sabres coach Dan Bylsma on new Buffalo players working together