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Blues need more from goalies, centers to succeed

Monday, 09.29.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

When the St. Louis Blues skated off the ice at United Center in April following a Game 6 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round, it signified another disappointing exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a promising regular season.

It marked the third straight season the Blues were eliminated earlier than expected.

After losing to the Los Angeles Kings the previous two seasons and the Blackhawks last spring, the players took the onus on themselves to make marked improvements. It was time to look in the mirror.

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Additions at center have Blues eager to take next step

Monday, 09.29.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Ken Hitchcock sat at his desk recently, beginning his fourth season as coach of the St. Louis Blues, and he couldn't recall a time when his players came to training camp in better shape and in a better frame of mind.

The 62-year-old, who coached the Blues to the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past three seasons, has stood by and watched his core group of players grow up.

The Blues, who have been eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings (2012 and '13) and Chicago Blackhawks (2014) the past three seasons, in the past would often soak up all the attention received as Stanley Cup favorites. Because they hadn't qualified for the playoffs in five of the six seasons prior to this three-year run, the players became a bit overwhelmed by the attention they were receiving.

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Cool in the clutch, Blues' Oshie has eyes on Cup

Monday, 09.29.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

There are those who are cool under pressure, and then there is T.J. Oshie.

The St. Louis Blues wing seems to live for the high-stress moments, on the ice and off it. At his day job, Oshie has grown into a bankable NHL star thanks to his skills in the shootout. Away from the arena, Oshie has embraced becoming a fiancé, a father and a pillar of the St. Louis community in a span of months with even greater calm and confidence.

Over six NHL seasons, Oshie is 27-for-48 (56.2 percent) in shootouts, including 9-for-12 last season. At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Oshie's prowess approached legendary status when he converted four of six shootout attempts to lift the United States past Russia, 3-2.

"It's the one thing in hockey where I'm very confident I'm going to score every time," Oshie said. "I think it's a big part of the game. [The Blues] used to not practice it ever, but over the last couple seasons I've been telling the coaches and goalie coaches, 'Hey, these are points, so we need to work on it.'"

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Sharks still see Thornton as leader despite loss of 'C'

Sunday, 09.28.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton opened training camp tied for 24th on the NHL's all-time assists list with 852 and ranked second among active players, trailing only Jaromir Jagr. Thornton has 1,194 career points, good for 46th all-time and second among active players, behind Jagr.

Thornton is San Jose's highest paid player, earning $6.75 million per year in his new three-year contract.

Yet, in the wake of San Jose's collapse against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Thornton was stripped of his captaincy, losing the "C" after wearing it for four seasons.

So the question when camp opened was this: How would losing the "C" affect Thornton, a player who continues adding to his possible Hall of Fame credentials and is crucial to the Sharks' hopes of rebounding after blowing a 3-0 series lead and losing the final four games against Los Angeles?

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Burns' transition, forward depth concerns for Sharks

Sunday, 09.28.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

The San Jose Sharks have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 10 straight seasons, a streak that seems likely to continue despite a tumultuous offseason and little help through free agency or trades.

But for the Sharks to bounce back from last season's first-round collapse against the Los Angeles Kings and become a team capable of making a strong run at a Stanley Cup title, they'll need the following three things to happen.

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Fueled by painful memory, Sharks start chase anew

Sunday, 09.28.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

The San Jose Sharks are used to bouncing back after coming up short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they've never had to rebound from as painful or humiliating of a loss as they sustained last season in the Western Conference First Round against the Los Angeles Kings.

After winning the first three games of the series, the Sharks lost four straight to the Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Sharks had a long, painful and, at times, dysfunctional offseason as Joe Thornton was stripped of his captaincy and alternate captain Patrick Marleau had his "A" removed as well.

"I think our minds still take us back to the playoffs, and they should, although I'd like us to eventually not forget about it but move on," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "But certainly, starting camp, there's a reflection period where we start thinking about how we finished the season and how the level of play that we competed in the last four games wasn't where it needed to be, and that's still there."

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Blackhawks ready to go after playoff disappointment

Sunday, 09.28.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

CHICAGO -- Four months later, it remains a goal that stings the Chicago Blackhawks.

Scored by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez 5:47 into overtime of Game 7 in the 2014 Western Conference Final, it sent the Kings to the Stanley Cup and left the Blackhawks with a summer of "what ifs?" to ponder.

What if they'd protected those two-goal leads in that game? What if defenseman Nick Leddy's stick hadn't been knocked to the ice seconds before Kings forward Justin Williams retrieved the puck and sent it out to Martinez?

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Center depth, goaltending key issues for Blackhawks

Sunday, 09.28.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

The Chicago Blackhawks make no secret about their goal for this season and beyond.

They're out to add a sixth Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters at United Center, and they have a roster with enough talent to do it. After falling one goal short of playing for the Cup in back-to-back seasons, the Blackhawks are rejuvenated and ready for another season to begin.

In order to achieve their goal this season, they'll need to make sure these three things happen:

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Chicago's Versteeg healthy, ready to redeem himself

Sunday, 09.28.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2014-2015 Season Preview

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

If anyone on the Chicago Blackhawks needed the offseason, it was right wing Kris Versteeg.

The 2013-14 season wasn't one he'd like to remember too much, except for the fact he returned from major knee surgery. Otherwise, the versatile 28-year old had a season that could best be described as turbulent.

"Time off physically and mentally always helps," Versteeg said shortly after the Blackhawks opened training camp. "I wasn't good last year and you always try to bounce back from years like that and come back better, so it was nice to have time off."

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Quote of the Day

It was a big dream. [Messi] is probably the best athlete out there, so it's a big honor, for [Kuznetzov] as well. It's maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the best player in soccer right now. I'm a big Barcelona fan and Messi fan, so it's huge. You can take [Michael] Jordan, [Mark] Messier, [Wayne] Gretzky, those kinds of [people]. It's an honor to meet. It's nice to be in that position.

— Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin told told Monumental Network after meeting soccer star Lionel Messi prior to Argentina's practice at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Md. on Friday