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Features

Five things to watch when Blackhawks host Blues

Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The fact the Chicago Blackhawks are still chasing the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues in the Central Division doesn't seem as alarming as it did three weeks ago because they've found their stride and are playing their best hockey of the still-young season.

The Blackhawks return home Wednesday for NBCSN's Rivalry Night game against the Blues (8 p.m. ET) for the first time since beating the Dallas Stars 6-2 on Nov. 16. They have won three straight, six of seven, and eight of 10 since losing six of nine games from Oct. 23-Nov. 7.

The Blackhawks, propelled by the win against Dallas, won five of six games during their annual "Circus Trip." They closed the trip with back-to-back 4-1 wins against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings this past weekend.

"We're much better," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said during a phone interview Tuesday. "We've got something to build off. We're heading in the right direction. The past road trip or seven games I'd say they were strong games discounting one game in Vancouver. There's a lot of good things going on right now, but I don't think it's anything we should be too excited about. We feel we still have to get better."

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Blues' American line bringing out their best

Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- They never got the opportunity to play together as a trio at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but when center Paul Stastny signed as an unrestricted free agent this past summer with the St. Louis Blues, the opportunity presented itself for an all-American line with United States teammates David Backes and T.J. Oshie.

Uniting the three wasn't immediately in the cards for coach Ken Hitchcock, who wanted to take a look at them in different fashions and with different linemates. Injuries also derailed any potential connection. Stastny sustained a shoulder injury the fourth game of the season against the Arizona Coyotes and missed eight games; Backes and Oshie each sustained concussions Oct. 28 against the Dallas Stars, with Backes missing one game and Oshie seven.

But in recent games, Hitchcock implemented the unit in order to get a boost for all three. The move seemed to spark each player's respective game.

The Blues (16-6-2) will need their American line and everyone else when they go up against the Chicago Blackhawks (15-8-1) in the Wednesday Night Rivalry Game (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

"I wanted to look at it at practice first," Hitchcock said. "I put a Swedish line out there; I had four guys from Sweden in one line. That's an American line, I got a Euro line because [Jaden Schwartz] plays like a Euro. I'm not sure … then I got a hound dog line [the fourth line]. I'm not sure what I got going, but I wanted to look at it. It was a good day."

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Love of game led Daly to Lester Patrick Award

Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / Lester Patrick Trophy

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Bill Daly has done a lot, seen a lot, heard a lot and changed a lot since arriving at the NHL on Dec. 13, 1996, as chief legal officer. He has carved out a career which has made him one of the leaders in the sports world as the NHL's Deputy Commissioner for the past nine years.

But take away the impressive resume and job responsibilities and, at his core, Daly is still a 50-year-old fan who relishes the opportunity to meet the players he admired as a boy attending games at Madison Square Garden with his dad.

"Getting to talk to Stephane Matteau and Jeff Beukeboom recently, that was really cool for me," Daly told NHL.com. "Rod Gilbert, the fact that he recognizes who I am and wants to talk to me, I think that's really cool. Vic Hadfield, we talked one night at a Ranger game and he went out of his way, on his own initiative, to sign a picture and have the Rangers frame it. He gave it to me the next time he saw me. I mean, how cool is that?"

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Survival instincts helped Rafalski to U.S. Hall of Fame

Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Former University of Wisconsin men's hockey coach Jeff Sauer vividly recalls the day he reached out to New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello with a little insight on a player he felt destined to make it big.

That player was 5-foot-10 Brian Rafalski, who at the time was considered by scouts an undersized defenseman incapable of handling the rigors of an NHL season.

"Lou told me he was too small and wouldn't be able to stand the physical game," Sauer said. "But four years later he was playing in the NHL and playing for Lou."

Lamoriello confirmed how Rafalski was back on his radar four years after Sauer's recommendation.

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Numbers show part of Beliveau's greatness

Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 12:05 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Managing Editor

Jean Beliveau's career numbers may not look as impressive because he played most of it during an era in which goals often were hard to come by, but Jean, who died Tuesday at age 83, is one of the handful of hockey immortals who transcended the sport. The Montreal Canadiens purchased a whole league just to get his NHL rights, and it was money well spent.

Beliveau was the backbone of one of the greatest dynasties in sports, the Canadiens of the late 1950s, and went on to a hallowed place in hockey history during his playing career and in the 40-plus years after he hung up his skates.

Here's a look at some of the numbers that illustrate a measure of Beliveau's greatness.

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Beliveau's grace, dignity endured after playing days

Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 12:01 AM / NHL Insider

David Kalan - NHL.com Staff Writer

Rejean Houle was a fine hockey player in his own right, playing parts of 11 seasons and winning the Stanley Cup five times with the Montreal Canadiens, but he admits being daunted by his first meeting with Jean Beliveau.

"When I came on the team in 1970-71, I came in the room and I said, 'Hi, Mr. Beliveau,'" Houle said while attending the 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary. "He said, 'Look, don't call me Mr. Beliveau. We're going to play together. You can call me Jean.' I always had a problem getting his name to be Jean. For me it was always Mr. Beliveau."

Houle's experience was not unusual.

Those lucky enough to meet Beliveau recall those meetings in similar ways. They point to his skill and legendary stature in the game, but also to the grace, dignity and, above all, class with which he carried himself. As a result, it was nearly impossible for players who grew up watching Beliveau not to treat him with a deep respect when they faced him.

Beliveau died Tuesday at age 83.

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Beliveau's clutch scoring evident in NHL record book

Tuesday, 12.02.2014 / 11:59 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Managing Editor

Jean Beliveau's name isn't scattered across the NHL record book the way Wayne Gretzky's is.

Beliveau's offensive numbers (507 goals, 712 assists and 1,219 points) were eclipsed by the offensive explosion of the 1970s and '80s. But the Montreal Canadiens legend's name is still prominent when it comes to the most important aspect of the game: winning the Stanley Cup.

Beliveau, who died Monday at 83, is one of four players who have taken part in Stanley Cup Final a record 12 times. Two of the other three are longtime Montreal teammates Maurice Richard and Henri Richard; the third is Hall of Famer Red Kelly, who spent a lot of his career trying to neutralize Beliveau and his teammates. Beliveau won 10 of those 12 Final appearances.

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Beliveau's timeline a testament to greatness

Tuesday, 12.02.2014 / 11:53 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Managing Editor

The Montreal Canadiens wanted Jean Beliveau so badly they bought an entire league. It was one of the smartest moves in franchise history.

Beliveau, who died Tuesday at age 83, made brief appearances with Montreal during the 1950-51 season and again in '52-53 as an amateur, but didn't have much interest in turning pro. The Canadiens ultimately bought the amateur Quebec Senior Hockey League and turned it into a professional minor league; Beliveau, who had signed a contract to play with Montreal if he turned pro, had no choice but to join the Canadiens, and he did in 1953-54.

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Votes from Latvia have Sabres' Girgensons in front

Tuesday, 12.02.2014 / 5:22 PM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- If you've noticed Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons at the top of the voting for the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, it's no mistake.

The Sabres forward is the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game in Columbus. He's tied for the Sabres lead in goals with Tyler Ennis (7) and is second in points (13). But that's probably not why he's piled up so many votes (399,356 as of Tuesday). A lot of the support is coming from his home country.

"He's a very popular man over in Latvia," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Monday. "I think from the Sochi Olympics he got his name out there a little bit more. Playing the way he's playing here in Buffalo the first couple years, he's getting his name out, so hopefully he's going to be a household name here in North America the way he is in Latvia. And good for him, he deserves everything he's getting."

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Sabres' Girgensons top vote-getter after week two of 2015 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by SiriusXM

Chicago Blackhawks rule Top 10 with five spots

Tuesday, 12.02.2014 / 5:12 PM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons is the top vote-getter after two weeks of voting in the 2015 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by SiriusXM with 399,356 total votes. Last week's leader, Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, occupies the second spot in the overall leaderboard, with 240,362 votes, while Chicago Blackhawks teammates Patrick Kane (216,261), Jonathan Toews (212,994), Duncan Keith (208,086), Corey Crawford (174,466) and Brent Seabrook (154,865) continue to rule the top 10. Nearly 8.5 million votes from more than 170 countries have been cast to date.

The top vote-getters by position are forwards Girgenson, Sidney Crosby (218,672) of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Kane; defensemen Subban and Keith; and goaltender Carey Price (204,923) of the Canadiens.

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Quote of the Day

I don't think it's really truly going to sink in until we drop the puck, to be honest. I know there's going to be a lot of smoke and mirrors with the media attention and all that. We came [Monday] and it was sort of a light day to get things organized. We just want to focus in on the business aspect, the game itself. That's what we're preparing to do. Get these next couple of days out of the way and it's game on.

— Lightning captain Steven Stamkos on playing in his first Stanley Cup Final