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Stanley Cup Final
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Features

McDavid set to return from injury in WJC exhibition

Sunday, 12.21.2014 / 1:42 PM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Chris Stevenson - NHL.com Correspondent

OTTAWA – Connor McDavid and Curtis Lazar can expect to see a lot of each for the next couple of weeks.

The Canadian forwards will be roommates during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship and will play on a line together Sunday when McDavid, projected to be a top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, returns to play for the first time since breaking a finger in a fight Nov. 11 while playing for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.

Canada plays Sweden on Sunday at the Canadian Tire Centre in an exhibition game leading up to the start of the tournament Dec. 26.

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Sabres turning early struggles into current gains

Sunday, 12.21.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Expectations can be a funny thing.

Before the season began for the Buffalo Sabres, it was expected by most outside of the organization they would be one of the worst teams in the NHL and a season-long contender to earn the first pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Through the first month-and-a-half of the season, the Sabres fit that description perfectly. Buffalo won three of its first 18 games and appeared to be well on the way to having the best shot to select top prospect Connor McDavid.

"We obviously didn't get the start we wanted this season but we stuck with it," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said. "We stuck with coming to the rink trying to improve every day. We knew it wasn't going to be a quick fix, we just had to keep doing the right things, the little things, and it's been a lot better of late for sure, but there's always room for improvement."

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Sunday Long Read: Landeskog a 'born leader'

Sunday, 12.21.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Tony Landeskog still has the story saved on his computer, the one he read over and over with his son, Gabriel:

"What it takes to be an NHL captain."

"We just printed that out and read through it," Tony told NHL.com. "It was what personality is important to be a captain."

"Take heart and the ability to be heartless," was the lead to the story by longtime hockey writer Alan Adams. "Add experience and the savvy to get a message across. Mix in desire and the wherewithal to instill that same desire in others. And blend in a heaping helping of leadership."

Gabriel Landeskog was 12 years old when that article was published, but the qualities Adams described are evident today in Landeskog, now a 22-year-old in his third season as captain of the Colorado Avalanche.

For those who know Landeskog best, it's not surprising he is the captain of an NHL team. That it happened after his first season raised a few eyebrows. But seeing a "C" on the front of his jersey is about as normal as seeing his name on the back of it.

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Penguins prospect Pouliot on path to NHL

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 12:20 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

For a 20-year-old, Derrick Pouliot has a pretty impressive resume.

The Saskatchewan native starred in the Western Hockey League with the powerhouse Portland Winterhawks after they drafted him first overall in the 2009 bantam draft. He put up 205 points over 247 games and was recognized as the top defenseman in the entire Canadian Hockey League last season.

He's won gold with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and made four trips to the WHL finals, winning the league title in 2013. He played in the 2012 CHL Top Prospects Game, and was selected to both the 2013 Memorial Cup All-Star Team and the 2014 WHL First All-Star Team.

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Hot fantasy topics: Rinne, Shattenkirk shining

Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Here's a look at five of the hottest topics in fantasy hockey right now.

1. The No. 1 fantasy player

Has anyone outside of fantasy owners that have him on their teams realized that Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is the No. 1 overall fantasy player? His owners continually point out how amazing he's been, but it's been a quiet type of amazing. Rinne is the prime reason the Predators are having so much success this season, and it's his consistency that separates him from every other goalie.

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Matthews' skill has him pointed toward U.S. WJC team

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 11:37 AM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Auston Matthews may be the youngest player at the U.S. National Junior Camp but he'll likely have a big role on the U.S. team at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo: Tom Sorensen)

BOSTON -- Center Auston Matthews is the youngest player taking part in the United States National Junior Team selection camp this week at Walter Brown Arena on the campus of Boston University.

It also appears he'll be a big part of the U.S. team that plays in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, which begins Dec. 26 in Toronto and Montreal.

If top 2015 NHL Draft prospect Jack Eichel doesn't become the first American-born player since 2007 to be the first pick of an NHL draft, than Matthews, 17, could earn that distinction at the 2016 draft. Matthews missed the cut for the 2015 draft by two days.

Don Granato, who coaches Matthews on the United States National Team Development Program under-18 team in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the future is limitless for Matthews, a 6-foot, 199-pound left-handed shot.

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U.S. defensemen key to World Junior fortunes

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 10:00 AM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

BOSTON -- On the way to the 2013 gold medal, the United States World Junior Team set a standard by allowing nine goals in seven games.

In addition to goaltender John Gibson's performance, the United States benefited from a nearly perfect balance of all the elements of the game on its defense, led by current Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones and Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba.

One year after the United States lost in the 2014 quarterfinals to Russia and failed to bring home a medal, it's again in search of that perfect mix of defensemen who can suffocate the opposition's scoring and push the tempo to contribute to the offense.

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DeBoer, Devils positive despite injuries, losses

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Jon Lane - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Before the calendar turns, the New Jersey Devils need a turnaround.

Eight points out of the second Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Devils are back at Prudential Center after playing 15 of their previous 20 games on the road.

A 5-11-4 record during that stretch did not deter coach Peter DeBoer. Combined with the upcoming three-day Christmas break and a road game against the New York Rangers on Dec. 27, the Devils will remain in the New York metropolitan area until a New Year's Eve game at the Detroit Red Wings.

"Six points out with 50 games left (before a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday), I don’t care what anybody says about history or anything like that. That's not an insurmountable amount of points," DeBoer said. "But we have to start winning games. We have to string four or five wins. We've played 10 more road games than home games, so the table is set for us. We have to make sure that we get it done."

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Positioning, speed keys to Red Wings' stingy defense

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Paul Harris - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- A big part of the Detroit Red Wings' success this season has been limiting their opponents' shots on goal and scoring chances.

Detroit (17-7-8) is allowing an average of 27.4 shots per game entering Friday against the New York Islanders. That's fourth in the NHL, trailing the Minnesota Wild (25.9). Tampa Bay Lighthing (27.2) and St. Louis Blues (27.2).

A key component of that is the spacing between the Red Wings' forwards and defensemen when they are forechecking and their opponents are attempting to come out of their own zone with the puck.

"I think their defensemen are really good in the way they play in the offensive zone," Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "And the defense play up in the neutral zone and they force you to dump it in. They don't spread out a lot when they're in the offensive zone."

That's the goal, according to Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

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Super 16: Isles' Okposo has uneven start to season

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Super 16: NHL Power Rankings

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Kyle Okposo had the best season of his career in 2013-14 for the New York Islanders, finishing with 27 goals and 69 points in 71 games. He moved to the top line next to John Tavares, and then continued to produce after the Islanders superstar was injured at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

On the surface, it looks pretty similar for Okposo this season. He has 27 points in 31 games, but only seven goals. More of a playmaker than a scorer anyway, a regression in goals could have been expected considering he shot nearly four percent better than his career average in 2013-14.

Okposo's point total this season is being propped up in part by 12 on the power play. He's averaging 6.0 points per 60 minutes with the extra man, which is nearly double last season (3.2). Check out his goal and point production at even strength in the accompanying table.

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Quote of the Day

You know what? We've played in some pretty special buildings along this playoff run so far. You start in Detroit, you go to Montreal, you come here … I think it's the first team to beat three Original Six teams to get to the Final if I'm not mistaken. That says how tough the road has been. Those are tough places to win.

— Lightning forward Steven Stamkos after Game 7 win vs. Rangers on Friday in New York