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Changes have Canadiens on verge of early history

Thursday, 10.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- It's not easy to make history when you play for the Montreal Canadiens.

But that's exactly what the 2015-16 Canadiens have an opportunity to do Thursday when they host the New York Rangers in their home opener at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG, RDS).

The Canadiens are 4-0-0, the fourth time they have opened a season with four wins. The three previous times (1955-56, 1970-71 and 1977-78), the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

They have never won five in a row to start any of their previous 97 NHL seasons.

Coach Michel Therrien learned of the history being made Tuesday evening after the Canadiens ruined the Pittsburgh Penguins' home opener with a 3-2 victory, and he's trying as best he can to maintain some composure amid the hot start.

"You've got to be really humble about success and understand it's a battle every night," Therrien said after an optional practice Wednesday. "It's good for the confidence, but we have to stay really humble."

By the Numbers: Kadri fits with Babcock

Thursday, 10.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Behind the Numbers

Rob Vollman - Correspondent

Rob Vollman is a pioneer in the field of hockey analytics and the co-author of "Hockey Abstract." His innovations include Player Usage Charts on Home Plate Save Percentage. He will contribute a regular column to throughout the season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs retooled this summer, trading forward Phil Kessel and signing coach Mike Babcock to an eight-year, $50 million contract. The changes opened the door for other players to emerge.

Forward Nazem Kadri, a secondary player for the past few seasons, could be among those who thrive once the rebuild in Toronto reaches its later stages.

In 10 seasons as coach of the Detroit Red Wings, Babcock was known for demanding possession-focused play. A quick look at the NHL's enhanced statistics can provide some interesting clues that show which Maple Leafs might thrive in a similar system.

In particular, Kadri's ability to drive possession, draw penalties, and generate scoring could make him a perfect match for Babcock's philosophy.

Unmasked: Backup goalies face myriad of challenges

Thursday, 10.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Unmasked

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

From the outside, backing up a workhorse starting goalie in the NHL might seem like a pretty easy job, and for long stretches it can certainly look like the hockey equivalent to being a bullpen catcher in baseball.

The role even comes complete with a hat to be worn while chewing gum or opening the door to the bench during the game. Sure, some teams ask their backup goalie to hold a clipboard and chart faceoffs to stay engaged during the game, and others make them throw a headset on from time to time so they can add insights from the bench to the home broadcast, but that doesn't seem like much to ask in exchange for an NHL paycheck.

If only being a backup goaltender was really that easy.

Matthew Tkachuk's game reminding many of NHL dad

Thursday, 10.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Forward Matthew Tkachuk didn't hesitate when asked what he felt stood out most about his U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame father, Keith Tkachuk, during his playing days.

"His leadership and competitiveness for sure," the younger Tkachuk said. "He would have no problem whacking a guy, sticking up for a teammate or just being vocal. Throughout his career it seemed there was never a time he didn't have a letter on his jersey.

"I know [having a letter] doesn't mean everything, but he's just a great leader."

Fantasy top 60 defensemen: Zidlicky leads Islanders

Wednesday, 10.14.2015 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Brian Metzer - Correspondent

Every Wednesday during the season, fantasy hockey contributor Brian Metzer provides in-depth defenseman analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer is your go-to guy for fantasy D-men advice all season long.

Marek Zidlicky had options for this season, but the 12-year-veteran didn't take the first or even the second offer that came along during unrestricted free agency.

That patience could have been detrimental, but it finally paid off when Garth Snow and the New York Islanders offered a one-year contract and another chance to chase a Stanley Cup.

"I'm happy I can play one more year and we'll see after that what happens," Zidlicky told upon signing his contract late in September. "I said right away after the season it could be possible I will retire or we will see. You never know. It's tough for everybody. It doesn't matter if you are 38 or 28. That's the business right now."

Blackhawks visit Flyers on Wednesday Night Rivalry

Wednesday, 10.14.2015 / 10:54 AM / Tale of the Tape

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup at Wells Fargo Center five years ago, but they'll try to end a regular-season victory drought of nearly 19 years when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers in this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

The Blackhawks ended a 49-year Cup drought when they defeated the Flyers in overtime of Game 6 in the 2010 Final. However, they are winless in 11 regular-season games in Philadelphia since a 4-1 victory on Nov. 9, 1996. In all, the Flyers are 40-16-11 against the Blackhawks at home during the regular season since entering the NHL in 1967.

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, a member of Chicago's Stanley Cup-winning team from last spring, is being honored by the Flyers before the game. Timonen was traded to Chicago on Feb. 27, and he played his final NHL game in the Blackhawks' Cup-clinching Game 6 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Timonen was also part of the Flyers' team that lost to Chicago in the 2010 Final.

Blackhawks' Teravainen looks to carve permanent role

Wednesday, 10.14.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks needed someone to break the ice.

Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 late in Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, it was starting to look like goalie Ben Bishop would lead the Lightning to a shutout at Amalie Arena.

Instead, in a flash, a 20-year old Finnish rookie changed the script. Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago's baby-faced forward, scored the tying goal and then followed it with a defensive play that led directly to the eventual game-winner scored by Antoine Vermette, all in a 1:58 span.

Asked about the diminutive Teravainen (5-foot-11, 178 pounds) after the Blackhawks won 2-1, right wing Marian Hossa delivered a quote that went viral.

"He doesn't have a heartbeat," said Hossa, a veteran of 18 NHL seasons. "He's so calm. He's Finnish cold."

Timonen to be honored by Flyers, 'my No. 1 team'

Wednesday, 10.14.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Kimmo Timonen was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, developed into an all-star with the Nashville Predators and won the Stanley Cup last season with the Chicago Blackhawks.

But he still considers himself a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I was in Nashville for eight years and I was the captain there," Timonen said. "My kids were born in Nashville. So those memories are really nice. Here in Philly, I think my role was so good, and playing for the Flyers in front of these fans, it was something I'll remember for the rest of my life. … I think the Flyers are my No. 1 team."

Team QMJHL selected for Canada-Russia series

Tuesday, 10.13.2015 / 5:25 PM / 2016 NHL Draft

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Julien Gauthier and Pierre-Luc Dubois, two top prospects for the 2016 NHL Draft, were among the 23 players picked for Team QMJHL in the 2015 CHL Canada-Russia Series.

Team QMJHL will play Team Russia in the final two games of the series, Nov. 17 in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, and Nov. 19 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The games are used by Hockey Canada as an evaluation tool for picking the team that will play for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Gauthier, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound right wing, has seven goals in 10 games for Val-d'Or and he earned an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its September players to watch list. Last season he had 38 goals and 73 points in 68 games, and 10 points in 17 QMJHL playoff games.

Sharks forward Ward adjusting after leaving Capitals

Tuesday, 10.13.2015 / 4:04 PM / NHL Insider

Katie Brown - Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward has experienced more than a few changes in his life over the past few months.

After four seasons with the Washington Capitals, Ward tested the free agent market and signed a three-year, $9.8 million contract with the San Jose Sharks on July 3.

With the Sharks set to play the Capitals at Verizon Center on Tuesday, Ward is adjusting not only to a new team, but a new way of life on the West Coast.

"[Washington] was definitely home for a while, so you're used to it, the simple drive to Kettler [Iceplex] every morning from where I was, so now it's about learning new things," Ward said. "I've got to find a new drycleaner, a new barber shop, all the little things I've got to go through now."

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