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X-Factor Namestnikov sticking with Lightning

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Lightning vs Red Wings - 2015 SCP First Round

Corey Long - Correspondent

TAMPA -- After spending the first third of the season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, it appeared Vladislav Namestnikov would be going through the postseason with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.

The 22-year-old forward was recalled again March 4, and he's made it hard for coach Jon Cooper to keep him out of the lineup.

Namestnikov, the No. 27 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, has established a role on the team that gives Cooper plenty of flexibility. He has the scoring touch to play on one of the top two lines if needed but possesses the grit and toughness that make him a good fit on the third line with Cedric Paquette or the fourth line next to Brian Boyle.

He's shown the skill set to be used on either special teams unit and he has three game-winning goals, showing he isn't afraid to make a play with the game on the line.

"[Namestnikov] has shown that he has the ability to play here and he's made it really hard for me to pull him out of the lineup right now," Cooper said. "As we approach the playoffs you want to have a relatively healthy team and play the guys that give you the best chance to win. He's one of those guys."

Hudler's season sparked Flames, but he won't say so

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Canucks vs Flames - 2015 SCP First Round

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- Jiri Hudler is as elusive on the ice as he is off.

But while the bashful Calgary Flames forward has never proven to be a big fan of chatting about personal accolades, linemates of the right wing haven't been shy to step in and discuss Hudler's best NHL season.

"A lot of people might not have expected that but in this room we know how he can play," said Sean Monahan, who has served as Hudler's center for much of 2014-15. "It's no surprise to us. I don't think he minds not getting that attention that some of the other guys get.

"He flies under the radar a little bit. That's something that he likes. He's doing a great job for us. He's taken a big chunk of this season and carried us."

Why the Lightning will win the Stanley Cup

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Lightning vs Red Wings - 2015 SCP First Round

There are a few things teams need to have to win the Stanley Cup, from a deep offense to a mobile but stout defense and a goaltender who makes all the important saves.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have all those pieces in place, and that's why they will win the Stanley Cup.

Captain Steven Stamkos draws most of the attention when it comes to the Lightning, and with good reason. Along with being one of the purest goal scorers in the League, Stamkos has the ability to elevate the play of his linemates.

But what separates the Lightning from the pack is the depth of their offense. Their second line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov arguably is the best 5-on-5 line in the NHL. They've combined for more than 90 points on the ice together at even strength; that ranks them in the top two among all lines, and about 60 points better than the Lightning's next highest-scoring line. Johnson, Palat and Kucherov each has a plus/minus of plus-30 or better.

Why the Predators will win the Stanley Cup

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Predators vs Blackhawks - 2015 SCP First Round

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Nashville Predators entered the 2014-15 season with hopes of finding a way to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after failing to qualify in back-to-back years.

They entered with a new coach, Peter Laviolette, who is the second in Predators history. Barry Trotz spent the first 15 years of their existence behind the bench. Armed with an ability to quickly turn things around, Laviolette seemed to be the perfect hire by general manager David Poile.

Just like Laviolette did in his first seasons with the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers, he quickly got his team back on track. Laviolette, who coached the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006, has done such an impressive job his name has been mentioned as a Jack Adams Award candidate as the NHL's top coach.

Why the Rangers will win the Stanley Cup

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Rangers vs Penguins - 2015 SCP First Round

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The New York Rangers are better suited to win the Stanley Cup this season because they're faster and more skilled than they were last season, when they went to the Stanley Cup Final. This is the best Rangers team since the 1993-94 season, when they last won the Cup.

Everything the Rangers do starts with speed. It fuels their overall game. They are arguably the fastest team in the NHL from front to back.

New York pushes the pace to create odd-man opportunities off the rush with quick puck movement. It puts the opponent on its heels. When the Rangers do that, it allows coach Alain Vigneault to roll four lines and three defense pairs, keeping everybody into the game and fresh.

Ovechkin, Price win regular-season trophies

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 12:54 AM / Trophy Tracker

NEW YORK (April 12, 2015) – The 2014-15 National Hockey League regular season concluded on Saturday with Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn capturing his first career Art Ross Trophy as the League’s scoring champion, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin claiming his fifth career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s goal-scoring leader and Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens winning the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltender(s) who play at least 25 games for the club allowing the fewest goals. Two races – for the Art Ross Trophy and William M. Jennings Trophy – came down to the final moments of the regular season.

Five reasons Penguins clinched playoff berth

Sunday, 04.12.2015 / 12:21 AM / Expert Picks

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the ninth straight season.

They stumbled to the finish line, but the Penguins gave themselves a chance to see the real impact of the organizational overhaul undergone since elimination from the playoffs last season in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

General manager Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Johnston have their fingerprints all over a team that under former GM Ray Shero and ex-coach Dan Bylsma followed a Stanley Cup championship in 2009 by being a perennial playoff disappointment.

Now Rutherford and Johnston get their first chance to win in the spring with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. At least they hope to have each player. If there is one thing that's for certain this season, it's to never take a healthy player for granted.

Playoff field set: Senators, Penguins get in

Saturday, 04.11.2015 / 11:59 PM / Expert Picks

The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins won their way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

The New York Islanders and Calgary Flames lost to hand over home-ice advantage to their first-round opponents.

Ottawa capped an amazing run with a clinching 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Senators, 23-4-4 in their last 31 games, are the second wild card from the Eastern Conference and play the Montreal Canadiens in the first round.

Montreal clinched the Atlantic Division with a 4-3 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Pittsburgh is the second wild card after defeating the Buffalo Sabres 2-0. The Penguins victory set the Eastern field by eliminating the Boston Bruins.

The Penguins will play the New York Rangers, who won the Presidents' Trophy and Metropolitan Division.

Five reasons Senators clinched a playoff berth

Saturday, 04.11.2015 / 4:15 PM / Expert Picks

Evan Sporer - Staff Writer

The 2012 Los Angeles Kings proved that all a team needs to do is get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs; from there, anything can happen. Los Angeles caught fire after the 2012 Trade Deadline, sneaking into the postseason as the No. 8 seed, and then eventually winning the 2012 Stanley Cup.

The Ottawa Senators have followed that blueprint to the letter so far.

On Feb. 10, the Senators were 14 points out of a playoff spot. Five teams stood in the way of a postseason berth.

Playoff hockey is all about "what have you done for me lately?" and of late, the Senators have been the hottest team in hockey. Ottawa is 23-4-4 since Feb. 10, and 32-16-7 since coach Dave Cameron took over on Dec. 11. Th Senators, the one led recently by a first-year goaltender and timely goal-scoring, now have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

Here are five reasons the Senators clinched a playoff berth:

Kraft Hockeyville USA announces top 10 finalists

Saturday, 04.11.2015 / 3:30 PM / 2015 Kraft Hockeyville

NHL Public Relations

NORTHFIELD, Ill. – Hundreds of communities across the country have shown their hockey spirit and passion by nominating their local rinks for the esteemed title of "Kraft Hockeyville USA," and the chance to host an NHL Pre-Season Game in their local community. Launched in the United States for the first time on January 1, in partnership with the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA), National Hockey League (NHL), NBC Sports Group and USA Hockey, Kraft's Canadian-born program captured the nation, reaching communities in all 50 states, with 1,324 rinks nominated and 18,388 unique story nominations. The top 10 communities will share $425,000 in arena upgrades from Kraft.

The 10 communities, five from the West and five from the East, moving on to the first round of voting include:

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Quote of the Day

I spent a long summer thinking about that playoff series and what could have been. [The Blackhawks] ended up being the Stanley Cup champions, so we know we lost to a very good team. It's tough to know how close we were, and it motivates us for this year.

— Nashville captain Shea Weber in an interview with the Predators website