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Wild enjoy first experience of outdoor hockey

Wednesday, 12.30.2015 / 10:10 AM / 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series - Hawks vs. Wild

The Minnesota Wild got a first taste of outdoor hockey Tuesday, holding practice outside at a rink in Edina, Minn.

The Wild will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 21 in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

About 1,000 fans watched practice through a light snowfall on a 20-degree day.

"That was fun. It was a neat atmosphere," defenseman Ryan Suter told the Wild website. "Brooks, my son, plays out there, so I always get to watch him play. It was neat to be out there."

Rangers visit Lightning on Wednesday Night Rivalry

Wednesday, 12.30.2015 / 3:00 AM / Tale of the Tape

John Kreiser - Managing Editor

The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning complete the 2015 portion of their schedules when they face off at Amalie Arena in the outgoing year’s final Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

The Lightning have dominated the rivalry in the past few years. Tampa Bay has won the past five regular-season games and kept the Rangers from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final last spring with a 2-0 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

One reason for Tampa Bay’s recent regular-season dominance has been the play of goaltender Ben Bishop, who is 9-0-0 lifetime against the Rangers with a 1.43 goals-against average, a .947 save percentage and two shutouts. Bishop shut out the Rangers in Games 5 and 7 of the conference final.

Chu excited to play in Outdoor Women's Classic

Jon Lane - Staff Writer

Julie Chu calls it "an awe moment," when you're fascinated by your surroundings while taking in the magnitude of where you are in your career or in life.

One of Chu's awe moments was practicing for the first time as a member of the United States Olympic team in 2002. The arena was empty, but the fact she would represent her country at a special event hit home.

"We all have it," Chu said. "When you step on the ice, there's always that awe moment, whether you want to admit it or not. It's just how quickly some of us who've had a chance to experience it a few more times, and maybe worked on the mental confirmation of that moment, we're able to shift out of that a little bit quicker and back to the focus of it."

Chu is a decorated veteran of the international circuit, but she is never immune to awe moments. She'll have another on New Year's Eve when the NHL hosts the inaugural Outdoor Women's Classic presented by Scotiabank. The exhibition game between the Boston Pride of the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) and Les Canadiennes de Montreal of the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) will be played at Gillette Stadium (2 p.m. ET) and help serve as a prelude to the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins on New Year's Day (1 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).

A's pitcher, Canadiens fan Hendriks is Classic-bound

Jon Lane - Staff Writer

Oakland Athletics pitcher Liam Hendriks traveled 15 hours from his native Australia to Los Angeles on Monday, and that was only the beginning of an escapade borne out of love for the game of hockey and his favorite NHL team, the Montreal Canadiens.

Already exhausted from the flight, Hendriks and his wife Kristi learned upon arrival their reservations for a rental car did not go through. When they arrived to the hotel at 8:30 a.m. Pacific time, it was too early to check in. If that wasn't enough, they're flying to Delaware to attend a wedding on New Year's Eve before driving two hours to Washington for a flight to Boston en route to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., to attend the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and watch Liam's beloved Canadiens play the Boston Bruins on New Year's Day (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Once the game was announced, Hendriks was getting there by any means necessary, even if the first leg of his journey meant traveling halfway around the world.

Canadiens want to make statement in Winter Classic

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After the Montreal Canadiens lost for the seventh time in eight games, captain Max Pacioretty pointed to the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic as a chance for them to show they're better than that.

Pacioretty and the Canadiens will be heading to Gillette Stadium for the game against the Boston Bruins on New Year's Day following a 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Tuesday.

"You know everyone is watching," Pacioretty said. "It's time to make a statement to the League. We're going to play against a very good team, and it's a great rivalry. Everyone around the League will be watching. It's time to make a statement and prove we're a better team than our past 12 or so games have shown."

Pacioretty and the Canadiens are looking forward to the game and the festivities, but at the same time, they're hoping they can get their season back on track after falling out of first place in the Atlantic Division.

Bruins finally able to look ahead to Winter Classic

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

BOSTON -- As much as there is a sense of excitement about what's ahead for the Boston Bruins, there was at least that much relief following their 7-3 win against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden on Tuesday.

Relief because they stopped a three-game losing streak. Relief because forwards who had been struggling to score like Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey combined for five goals, including a hat trick for Hayes. Relief because their top-ranked power play proved it can produce (a season-high four goals) without injured center David Krejci.

And, not to be buried under the avalanche of good that happened to the Bruins on Tuesday, relief that they don't have to worry anymore that looking ahead to the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic means they risk looking past the next game.

The Winter Classic against the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium on Friday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports) is the next game for the Bruins. They can finally talk about it. Shockingly, they haven't all season long.

Five things learned from Day 4 of World Juniors

Tuesday, 12.29.2015 / 4:48 PM / 2016 World Junior Championship

Tim Wharnsby - Correspondent

The Canadian junior team escaped a monumental upset Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout win against Switzerland at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

In 20 previous games, the Swiss had never defeated Canada at the WJC and the point that accompanied this gutsy effort kept alive their slim hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals. They need a three-point regulation victory against the United States on Wednesday and Denmark to lose its final two games against Sweden and the U.S.

The two-point victory hurts the Canadians (five points) in the Group A standings, but they avoided disaster when captain Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Matthew Barzal (New York Islanders) scored in the shootout.

Canadian goalie Mackenzie Blackwood (New Jersey Devils) stopped Pius Suter and Timo Meier (San Jose Sharks) in the two attempts Blackwood faced.

Winter Classic rink crew perseveres through elements

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The weather didn't do the ice-making crew at Gillette Stadium any favors Tuesday morning.

The area was blanketed by about an inch of snow, followed by rain that lasted well into the early afternoon.

Those are not ideal conditions, especially at this critical point in the rink-building process, for Dan Craig, the NHL's senior director of facility operations and hockey operations. Craig is the point person for making the ice ready for the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic here on Jan. 1 between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"Like I was telling one of the guys today, I thought we were going to get a bit of snow and scrape it off," Craig said Tuesday during a break. "All our lines and logos were done last night and I though we just need to go another half-inch of ice and we're ready to skate [Tuesday night] and do the other stuff [Wednesday], and here we are putting in a 16-hour day just to catch up."

WJC roundup: Canada tops Switzerland in shootout

Tuesday, 12.29.2015 / 3:56 PM / 2016 World Junior Championship

Canadian Press

HELSINKI -- Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Matt Barzal (New York Islanders) scored in the shootout as Canada defeated Switzerland 3-2 on Tuesday at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

It was a nail-biter for Canada fans after the team fell behind 2-0 in the first period.

Canada moves to 1-1-0-1 (1 win, 1 overtime win, 1 loss) in Group A preliminary play.

Fantasy top 100 forwards: Tavares on an Island

Tuesday, 12.29.2015 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Pete Jensen - Fantasy Insider

Every Tuesday during the season, fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen provides in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top-100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen is your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.

The New York Islanders are 19-12-5 and currently in Stanley Cup Playoff position with the third-most points in the Metropolitan Division. Their goalies, Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, are each among the League leaders in goals-against average and save percentage. Their point percentage (0.5972) is tied for eighth in the NHL. Their penalty kill (87.3 percent) ranks second in the League.

But they have a growing problem: Their best player has his hands full and isn't producing anywhere near his capability.

As we approach the midway point of the 2015-16 season, John Tavares has been a huge fantasy disappointment considering what was expected of him. John Tavares, drafted fifth on average in Yahoo leagues, had 86 points in 82 games last season, one behind Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars (87) for the NHL scoring title. Since 2011-12, he's tied with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the fifth-most points League-wide.

Tavares has 25 points in 33 games, exactly one half of Patrick Kane's NHL-best total of 50 in 37 games. Forwards like Mikkel Boedker, Lee Stempniak and Kyle Palmieri are currently higher than Tavares on the NHL leaderboard. If it wasn't for Crosby struggling to a similar degree with the Penguins sitting outside of the postseason picture, there would be much more attention paid to Tavares' struggles.

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