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(Page 148 of 176)
Features

Central: Blues, Blackhawks battling for first

Tuesday, 02.25.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The St. Louis Blues spent most of the first four months of the season trying to catch the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division. The Blues did it by winning three of their final four games before the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Now their task is to stay on top.

St. Louis returns to action with the best goal differential in the NHL at plus-61. Its forward lines are talented and deep and the defense is strong in its zone and moves the puck well. Goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have been solid if not spectacular.

Though St. Louis and Chicago each have 84 points, perhaps the biggest advantage the Blues hold in their quest to finish ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champions is that they've played three fewer games.

The Blues and Blackhawks are five points ahead of the surprising Colorado Avalanche, who look like a lock to earn the third of the Central's automatic playoff berths. The holders of the two Western Conference wild-card spots are well behind. The fourth-place Minnesota Wild trail Colorado by 10 points and the Dallas Stars are another five points behind Minnesota.

The Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators have a chance to catch Dallas for the second wild-card berth in a race that could see five teams chasing one spot.

Here's a look at the seven Central teams as they prepare for the stretch run:

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Poirier has future in mind during QMJHL playoffs

Tuesday, 02.25.2014 / 3:00 AM / In the Pipeline

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

CALGARY -- The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs have the attention of Gatineau Olympiques standout Emile Poirier, but that doesn't mean the Calgary Flames aren't in his crosshairs too.

In the midst of a career season, Poirier has his sights set on making an impression on the Flames in the postseason because that's where the true stars shine.

"I think so far I'm satisfied [with my season], but the playoffs are coming so I need to get ready," said Poirier, who has skated primarily with Montreal Canadiens prospect Martin Reway and Ottawa Senators fifth-round pick Vincent Dunn this season. "It's the most important time of the year. I think the playoffs are where the good players show up the most.

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Wrigley memories remain strong for Blackhawks

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg is an experienced veteran now, but he'll never forget the game he played as a rookie Jan. 1, 2009 at Wrigley Field.

Versteeg took the ice that day with the Blackhawks to face the rival Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. He wound up scoring the game's first goal 3:24 into the first period in what turned out to be a back-and-forth game won by Detroit 6-4 in cold, overcast conditions.

As the Blackhawks prepare to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at Soldier Field (8 p.m. ET, NBC) in the final game of the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series, Versteeg and others who played at Wrigley are reminded of that game five years ago.

"I remember a lot," Versteeg said Monday. "I remember getting ready in the locker room and coming out side-by-side with Detroit. It was kind of like soccer ... how they come out holding hands [with youth players] and then all of a sudden they're enemies."

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Blackhawks to appear on NBC's 'Chicago Fire'

NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Chicago Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will make a guest appearance in the Tuesday, Feb. 25 episode of the hit NBC drama, "Chicago Fire" (10 p.m. ET).

In the episode titled "Virgin Skin," Shay (played by Lauren German) gets an unusual tip from Seabrook and Keith, friends of Clarke (guest star Jeff Hephner) who stop by Molly's, the local bar that is co-owned by several members from firehouse 51. The much-anticipated 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series outdoor matchup between the Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field generates excitement at Molly's and the firehouse.

NBC will broadcast the Blackhawks-Penguins outdoor game on Saturday, March 1 at 8 p.m. ET.

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Canadiens' Price still relishing Olympic experience

Monday, 02.24.2014 / 1:30 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Carey Price, named the best goalie of the men's ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, again was in the spotlight Monday when he met with Montreal-area media at Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Quebec to talk about his gold medal-winning performance for Canada.

Price, who did not practice Monday and will remain off the ice Tuesday, had his gold medal in the pocket of his sweat jacket and posed for pictures for photographers.

"The last 24 hours has been a bit of a whirlwind," Price said. "I just got off the plane a couple of hours ago."

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Fantasy All-Access: Break for Olympics is over

Matt Sitkoff - NHL.com Contributor

The NHL is back after the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. It was a great tournament, which that saw the St. Louis Blues' T.J. Oshie become a United States hero, the Russians come short of their goal of winning the gold on home soil and Canada win the gold medal.

Phil Kessel and Erik Karlsson led the tournament with eight points; they weren't the only players to make an impression and become fantasy-worthy for the rest of the season.

Finland won the bronze medal with help from two Anaheim Ducks players, one old (43-year-old Teemu Selanne) and one young (22-year-old defenseman Sami Vatanen). Vatanen had a team-leading five assists while averaging a team-high 18:34 of ice time per game. Although he has spent time in the American Hockey League this season and has been a healthy scratch by the Ducks, his six goals are tied for the Ducks lead among defensemen and he should see a bump in playing time from his great Olympic tournament.

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Heritage Classic bringing Schroeder to hockey roots

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- For Vancouver Canucks center Jordan Schroeder, playing in the 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic will bring his young career full circle. The Minnesota native credits pond hockey for sparking his passion for the game and helping him get to the NHL.

Schroeder said he was "4 or 5" years old when he began playing on a pond in his neighbor's backyard in Lakeville, a suburb south of Minneapolis. Eighteen years later Schroeder is looking forward to playing outside again, but Sunday (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) it will be in front of 55,000 fans against the Ottawa Senators at BC Place.

The stage may be a lot bigger now, but Schroder doesn't think he would have reached it if not for that small pond that ignited his passion for the sport, and the countless hours spent refining his skating and skills on it and other outdoor rinks around Minnesota.

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NHL to host free fan festival in celebration of 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game in Chicago

Free hockey-themed attractions open to the public on game day from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

NEW YORK – The National Hockey League (NHL®) will transform Soldier Field's Stadium Green into its official 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ Spectator Plaza, a free hockey and entertainment fan festival, in celebration of the much-anticipated outdoor matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks® and Pittsburgh Penguins® on Saturday, March 1 in Chicago. From 3:00 p.m. until the 7:00 p.m. CT start of the game, fans of all ages will be treated to a host of hockey-themed interactive attractions, prizes and giveaways; a performance from the Chicago-based band The Hot Sauce Committee; and merchandise tents with an extensive selection of officially-licensed 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series products and collectibles.

Fans can expect a wide variety of game-day attractions and other related activities, including:

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Metropolitan: Penguins in complete control

Monday, 02.24.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

There's no question which team will win the Metropolitan Division. After that, however, things are wide open.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have dominated the division almost since opening night, and despite injuries that forced them to raid their farm system, they return from the Olympic break with a 16-point lead over the second-place New York Rangers. Sidney Crosby is poised to win another NHL scoring title, but the Penguins have enough offensive depth, defense and goaltending to pace them through the final six weeks of the regular season before what they expect will be a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The other two automatic playoff berths in the division are very much in play, as are the Eastern Conference's two wild-card berths.

The Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers survived bad starts and return from the break second and third in the division, respectively. They're trying to fend off the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, all of whom have been inconsistent but are no more than a short winning streak away from jumping into the top three. Only the New York Islanders appear to have too much of a hill to climb to make the postseason.

Here's a look at the eight Metropolitan teams as they prepare for the stretch run:

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Atlantic: Bruins bound for top-two seed

Monday, 02.24.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The Boston Bruins are well on the way to their third division title in four seasons.

They have established themselves as the class of the Atlantic Division. Though they haven't commanded their division the way the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks have, the Bruins return for the final weeks of the season comfortably in front and in position to be no worse than the second seed in the Eastern Conference when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in April.

After the Bruins, there are three distinct sub-layers in the Atlantic.

The surprising Tampa Bay Lightning return from the Olympic break second in the division, one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. The injury-plagued Detroit Red Wings own the second of the conference's two wild-card spots, but the Ottawa Senators are one of three teams that trail Detroit by one point.

The Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres appear to have no chance to make the postseason; the Sabres own the League's worst record and their 38 points are nine fewer than any other team.

Here's a look at the eight Atlantic teams as they prepare for the stretch run:

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Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threatening illness