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Blackhawks acquire forward Abbott from Maple Leafs

Thursday, 02.26.2015 / 4:43 PM / 2015 NHL Trade Deadline

ChicagoBlackhawks.com

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that they have acquired forward Spencer Abbott from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman T.J. Brennan. Abbott will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

Abbott, 26, has recorded 127 points (37G, 90A) in 168 career AHL games over portions of four seasons with the Toronto Marlies. The Hamilton, Ont., native was tied for third on the Marlies with 24 points (7G, 17A) this season. Abbott made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 5, 2013.

Previously, Abbott tallied 146 points (54G, 92A) in 151 games over four seasons at the University of Maine. Abbott was named Hockey East Player of the Year and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award after contributing 62 points (21G, 41a) during his senior campaign in 2011-12.

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Blues acquire forward Cracknell from Blue Jackets

Thursday, 02.26.2015 / 4:00 PM / 2015 NHL Trade Deadline

NHL.com

The St. Louis Blues acquired forward Adam Cracknell from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday for future considerations.

The Blues assigned Cracknell to Peoria of the American Hockey League.

Cracknell had one assist and a minus-8 rating in 17 games with the Blue Jackets this season; he has three goals and seven points in 18 games with Springfield of the AHL.

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Fleury saves day for Penguins with breakaway stop

Thursday, 02.26.2015 / 12:20 PM / Top Performer

NHL.com

The Pittsburgh Penguins successfully averted a season sweep by the Washington Capitals with a 4-3 win Wednesday at Verizon Center. The victory was sweet given the fact the Capitals had outscored the Penguins 10-1 in the previous three games. It also earned Pittsburgh its third straight win and a three-point lead over the Capitals for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 21 saves, including a huge stop on Joel Ward on a 2-on-0 shorthanded breakaway in the second period to preserve a 3-1 lead.

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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Canucks' Lack gets job done

Thursday, 02.26.2015 / 12:00 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.

Whatever problems the Vancouver Canucks have encountered the past few seasons, they've always had a very strong backup plan when it comes to their goaltending situation.

In fact, in some cases "Plan B" was, even in smaller sample sizes, outperforming the starter.

So while the Canucks stand to lose a veteran goalie in Ryan Miller for the next 4-6 weeks, their crease will be just fine with Eddie Lack and the recently recalled Jacob Markstrom.

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Unmasked: For Bruins' Rask, the defense can't rest

Thursday, 02.26.2015 / 3:00 AM / Unmasked

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

For the Boston Bruins to hold on to the final Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, goaltender Tuukka Rask is probably going to need to play like the Vezina Trophy winner he was last season.

For that to happen, Rask will probably need the Bruins defense to revert, and stick, to its signature stingy ways.

Well into his worst season statistically since becoming Boston's No. 1 goaltender, Rask is honest about how his game suffered early this season. The frank Finn talks openly about the link between his poor start and a defense that lost Johnny Boychuk to trade on the eve of the season, captain Zdeno Chara to a knee injury for 19 games three weeks after the season started, and Adam McQuaid to a finger injury from mid-November to the New Year.

Rask didn't excuse his own role in the early stumbles, saying he felt good but the Bruins needed more and he "just wasn't able to be great out there." Like most things surrounding goaltending, Rask's performance through January did not exist in a vacuum.

"I've always played my best when I am aggressive and challenging," Rask told NHL.com. "But when you have new guys on the back end trying to find their game and comfort zone, it makes the goalie's job different too. You can't be as aggressive as you normally are because you have to be ready for passes to the backdoor and loose pucks that normally get cleared. There's been a lot of that."

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Wild's Scandella credits playoff series for growth

Thursday, 02.26.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

The turning point of Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella's NHL career isn't hard to find.

After spending all but six games of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season in the American Hockey League, Scandella was recalled by the Wild in time to play against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

An injury forced coach Mike Yeo to put Scandella in the lineup for Game 1 despite him not having played a game with the Wild in nearly three months. He responded with a goal in Game 2 and an assist in Game 5.

After spending three seasons shuttling back and forth between the Houston Aeros of the AHL and the Wild, Scandella finally had arrived. He hasn't left since, developing into a key part of the Wild defense heading into their game Thursday at the Nashville Predators (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

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Merkley getting ahead by watching, listening to others

Thursday, 02.26.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015 NHL Draft

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

Nicholas Merkley is months away from hearing his name called at the 2015 NHL Draft. But he's already seen what it will take to be a National Hockey League player.

Spending his summers training alongside Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers and Mike Green of the Washington Capitals, the 17-year-old has a good understanding about what it's going to take for him to get to the next level.

"It's pretty cool seeing them in the gym every day," Merkley said. "Obviously you're star-struck but you're trying to focus on your workout and things like that. It's good to see how hard they work on the gym and on the ice.

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Kings acquire defenseman Sekera from Hurricanes

Wednesday, 02.25.2015 / 11:50 PM / 2015 NHL Trade Deadline

NHL.com

The Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday acquired defenseman Andrej Sekera from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade for a first-round draft pick and a prospect.

Sekera, 28, has 19 points in 57 games this season and was second on the Hurricanes in average ice time at 22:46. Last season he set career highs with 11 goals and 44 points.

The Kings are playing without two defensemen, injured Alec Martinez (concussion symptoms) and suspended Slava Voynov.

"I think it's the one area of the team that we felt was the one area that could be targeted in terms of an upgrade," Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi said, according to LA Kings Insider. "… I think the thing about [Sekera], No. 1, he's a competitive guy. We have no issues as far as him fitting in here with this group. No question he’s going to be hungry. I think whenever you look at your back end, it's a mix-type thing, and I think [there are] things he can bring to us. … He's very mobile, and even though he's not big (6 feet, 201 pounds), he certainly competes. He's a smart player."

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Hockey pioneer James reveals rough journey in book

Wednesday, 02.25.2015 / 9:07 PM / NHL Insider

Jon Lane - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- One night during Val James' rookie season with the Buffalo Sabres in 1982, he was faced with a test of character.

The opening pages of James' new book, "Black Ice: The Val James Story," explains how following a game against the Boston Bruins, the Sabres bus was blocked by angry fans who threw a beer bottle into the windshield and demanded James, then 25 years old, show his face.

James, who is black, headed to the front of the bus with the intent of confronting the mob before he was ordered back to his seat by coach Scotty Bowman.

"That would have been a stupid move on my part," James said here Wednesday. "I have to thank Mr. Bowman for seeing through all my anger and rage. I wasn't really mad. I was more ashamed and upset that my own countrymen would do that to me after I made it to the pinnacle of hockey. I was very disappointed. I don't blame the whole city of Boston, just a certain few.

"In a situation like that, it takes a lot of discipline."

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Jets acquire forward Tlusty, place Wheeler on IR

Wednesday, 02.25.2015 / 6:56 PM / 2015 NHL Trade Deadline

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets' bid to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007 received another boost Wednesday.

The Jets acquired 26-year-old left wing Jiri Tlusty from the Carolina Hurricanes for a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a conditional 2015 sixth-round pick. That pick would become a fifth-round choice in 2015 if the Jets reach the playoffs this season.

Tlusty has 13 goals and 10 assists in 52 games this season. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said he expects he'll be available when the Jets host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

It's the second trade in two weeks for Cheveldayoff. He acquired defenseman Tyler Myers and right wing Drew Stafford, a 2015 first-round pick, and two prospects from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 11 for left wing Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian.

Winnipeg holds the first wild card in the Western Conference and has a four-point lead on the second wild card, the Minnesota Wild. Winnipeg is trying to fend off Minnesota, the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks, each one point behind the Wild. The Jets are within four points of the Chicago Blackhawks for third place in the Central Division. Eight of the Jets' final 20 games are against division opponents, and they have five games remaining against Pacific Division teams.

"The [dressing] room has been sending me the message," Cheveldayoff said Wednesday. "[The trade] is a message to the room that we're all-in here. We're going to keep working [until the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET]."

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Quote of the Day

Obviously there's a lot of expectations around me but it's something I try not to focus on. I'm just trying to go out there, be myself on the ice every day, try to get better, be myself around the guys in the locker room. I think that's what's made me successful and the person that I am.

— Sabres forward Jack Eichel on transitioning from college hockey to the NHL