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Features

Five things to watch in Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Detroit Red Wings haven't missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in more than two decades, the longest active streak in the NHL. With the way things are looking, it appears as though the Red Wings will still be playing when the regular season concludes in April.

Coach Mike Babcock and the Red Wings have won eight of their past 10 games and are atop the Atlantic Division heading into this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN, TVA SPORTS).

The Maple Leafs will be playing their second game in as many nights after a 4-1 win against the Calgary Flames at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. This is the first of two games between these Original Six rivals this week; Toronto will host Detroit on Saturday.

"It's always a great atmosphere, it's always a lot of fun with the 'Let's Go Red Wings' and the 'Go Leafs Go' chants," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard told the Red Wings website Tuesday. "It always makes for like a playoff atmosphere. It'll be no different [Wednesday]."

Here are five things to watch in the game between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings:

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Capitals' Wilson is thriving after move to first line

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Alex Ovechkin and Barry Trotz think Tom Wilson can be to the Washington Capitals what Milan Lucic already is to the Boston Bruins.

Ovechkin said he envisions a time in the near future when he, center Nicklas Backstrom and Wilson, who is 20 years old, resemble Boston's former top line with Lucic, center David Krejci and either Nathan Horton or Jarome Iginla.

"He's young and people don't know him well, but he's going to score two or three goals and people are going to put more attention on him and it's going to take attention away from me and [Backstrom]," Ovechkin told NHL.com. "Everybody is going to know that this line can produce no matter who is with the puck. He's still learning. We're helping him a lot. We talk and say what we have to do and what he has to do."

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Howard's strong play has Red Wings in contention

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Paul Harris - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- If you ask Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard what he is doing differently this season than in 2013-14, his response is "Nothing."

But, he adds, there is one difference.

Jimmy Howard
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 13-5-4
GAA: 2.21 | SVP: .917
"Just feel healthy, that's the biggest thing. I put in the work in the summertime," Howard said. "It [health] gives you the confidence to go out there and do your job."

Howard is 13-5-4 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .917 save percentage for Detroit, which has won seven of its past eight games. The Red Wings are 17-6-5 and on top of the Atlantic Division with 39 points heading into the Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA SPORTS).

Last season, Howard, 30, slumped with a 2.66 GAA after 2.12 and 2.13 the previous two seasons. He was hampered throughout 2013-14 with groin and shoulder injuries.

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Groulx focused on Canada selection-camp process

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Canadian National Junior Team coach Benoit Groulx has made it clear the type of player he feels will fit his profile to serve on the final roster for the country at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

He'll begin the arduous process of forming that 22-man unit Thursday when Hockey Canada's selection camp begins in earnest with a practice at MasterCard Centre in Toronto. Groulx will hold practices Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The team will hold a morning skate Saturday before traveling to Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto for an exhibition match against CIS at 7 p.m. ET.

What type of player is Groulx seeking in attempt to end a five-year gold medal drought at the tournament?

"Recent history has shown us that being a hundred-point guy on a first line is no longer enough at the Juniors," Groulx said. "Our players have to raise their game. These are players who will one day be in the National Hockey League. They have the talent, but can they elevate their play? That's the message we're sending. The level we've competed at these last few years simply wasn't enough."

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Canadiens shine spotlight on Beliveau's seat

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 12:18 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens have sold out Bell Centre for 422 consecutive games.

All 383 regular-season games and 39 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs dating to Jan. 8, 2004 were officially listed as a sellout, a streak that is one month short of 11 years.

The streak was snapped Tuesday.

The official attendance for the Canadiens' 3-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks was listed as 21,286, one short of capacity, to account for the empty aisle seat in Row EE in Section 102, three rows behind the Montreal bench.

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Lightning's Stamkos humble scoring 250th goal

Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 10:33 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Long - NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos didn't want to make a big deal about closing in on his 250th NHL goal.

Truth be told, he doesn't think it's much of a milestone.

"It's kind of cool to think about when you are getting close to something like that, but I never really thought something-and-50 was a milestone," Stamkos said before scoring that goal against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. "I think when you get to 200, 300, 400 … I mean it's halfway to 500, but if we're at 499 one day you can ask me if I'm thinking about the next goal. Not that I am taking it for granted, it's always fun to score goals, but I want to help this team."

Stamkos scored 47 seconds into the second period at Amalie Arena. It tied the game 2-2, but the Lightning lost 5-3.

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Blue Jackets unveil events leading up to All-Star Game

Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 3:52 PM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

Craig Merz - NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets want everyone to know that the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend is more than just the game at Nationwide Arena on Jan. 25.

In fact, there will be plenty of events not in the arena or held exclusively on the final weekend of the month, Blue Jackets officials announced Tuesday:

* The Columbus Blue Jackets All-Star Winter Park across the street from Nationwide Arena will have an NHL-sized rink with 500 bleacher seats, skate rental and four heated locker rooms. The park will be open Jan. 16-25.

There will be more than 50 hours of public skating plus private events and youth hockey games, said Larry Hoepfner, Blue Jackets executive vice president of business operations.

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Cameron took scenic route to Senators coaching job

Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 3:32 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Stevenson - NHL.com Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Dave Cameron apparently doesn't do anything too quickly.

The new coach of the Ottawa Senators jokingly said he holds the record for taking the longest to get an undergraduate degree at University of Prince Edward Island, at 10 years.

"I enrolled in '76, graduated with the class of '86," said the 56-year-old, who became the Senators' 10th coach when Paul MacLean was fired Monday.

Cameron was pursuing his career as a hockey player during that 10-year span, which included three NHL seasons with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils.

It's taken him a long time on a long road, but he has his first job as an NHL coach.

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Sabres' Girgensons expands lead as top vote-getter in 2015 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by SiriusXM

Blackhawks teammates Kane and Toews round out Top 3

Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 2:00 PM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons remains the top vote-getter after three weeks of voting in the 2015 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by SiriusXM with 803,805 total votes. The Latvian-born forward added more than 400,000 votes in one week with nearly 82 percent of his total votes tallied from his native country and 80 percent from Sabres fans. Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane moved into the second spot in the overall leaderboard, with 375,758 votes, while his teammate Jonathan Toews occupied the third sport overall with 367,962 votes. More than 14 million votes from 182 countries have been cast to date, up 65 percent from last week.

If voting ended today, Girgensons, Kane, Toews; defensemen Duncan Keith (361,830) of the Blackhawks and P.K. Subban (351,726) of the Montreal Canadiens; and goaltender Corey Crawford (311,166) of the Blackhawks would earn spots in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game.

The leaderboard of the top vote-getters is available at NHL.com/vote. Fans can join the conversation by using the official hashtag #NHLAllStar.

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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Five disappointing groups

Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 12:05 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen will provide you with in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top 100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen will be your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.

Fantasy performance is based on individual statistics, but team success or failure can also make or break a player's value.

Just look at how the early-season success stories of the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks have infiltrated fantasy rosters. From reliable goaltending (e.g. Pekka Rinne, Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller) to offensive defensemen (e.g. Mark Giordano) to standout rookies (e.g. Filip Forsberg, Johnny Gaudreau) to steals up front (e.g. Radim Vrbata, Brock Nelson), these developments have led to a positive fantasy ripple effect.

But remember, it's a two-way street. The unpredictability of hockey can turn a seemingly complete roster on paper into shambles over the course of a season.

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Quote of the Day

It is really special. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight, and for my first [NHL] game in here it was great. I played here as an elementary-school player in the city championships and this was my first time back. It was a lot of fun.

— Toronto native Brandon Pirri after scoring 2 goals for Panthers in win at Maple Leafs on Thursday
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