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Graovac rewarding Wild with breakout AHL season

Friday, 03.13.2015 / 12:20 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Tyler Graovac is hard to miss.

But all 30 NHL teams did just that, bypassing Graovac 190 times until the Minnesota Wild finally selected him at No. 191 with their last pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.

"I knew when it came down to [draft weekend], I wasn't really expected to go high," Graovac said. "Getting picked seventh round by Minnesota was a little bit of a shock because I had had a lot of interviews with teams that year and Minnesota was the only one who didn't interview me. But it's been going great. They've been very patient with me."

That patience has paid dividends, as the 21-year-old center has excelled in his second season with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. Fifty-eight games into the 2014-15 season, Graovac has nearly doubled his offensive output from last season, leading Iowa in goals (19), points (40), power-play goals (eight), and shots on goal (163). He's had 10 multipoint games.

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Lee, Lehtera can help down stretch in fantasy

Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

With a little more than four weeks remaining in the regular season and fantasy hockey leagues, it's time to take a look at some players that need to be owned in far more leagues for the stretch run. These players could be the difference in winning or losing your league, so add them now before you regret it during the offseason.

Anders Lee, C/LW, New York Islanders – available in 47 percent of Yahoo leagues

In the past 30 days in Yahoo leagues, only Lee's teammate John Tavares, and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals have been more valuable fantasy forwards. During that time Lee has seven goals, nine assists, a plus-11 rating, 12 penalty minutes, three power-play points and 53 shots on goal. Lee spent a lot of that productive ice time on a line with Tavares, but was reunited on the "Kid line" with Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson on Tuesday, where he found success earlier in the season. Lee is playing the best hockey of his young career and his 23 goals rank second among NHL rookies (behind Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman, who has 24).

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Flames credit comeback success to fitness level

Friday, 03.13.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

CALGARY -- From an office overlooking the fitness facility in the bowels of Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary Flames strength and conditioning coach Ryan van Asten took a moment and paused.

Then, peering out from his desk in the direction of his other, bigger office of gym equipment, van Asten suggested he knew at least part of the reason the Flames have found success in the second season of what is supposed to be a rebuilding process.

Fitness.

"You kind of have to look at it as so many different variables," he said atop an exercise ball. "I like to think that piece of the puzzle is paying off, what we do in the gym. We train every day. There are so many different factors. One of them is, we've done it so many different times, is confidence. At the end of the day, if you don't have the physiological resources, it's all for naught.

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Super 16: Norris Trophy race has no clear-cut favorite

Friday, 03.13.2015 / 3:00 AM / Super 16: NHL Power Rankings

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

With about a month left in the season, the top three or four candidates for every major individual award except one are pretty clear.

That one is the Norris Trophy, and this might be the most wide-open race of any individual award in the past several seasons. Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames was considered a favorite by many prominent pundits, but his injury has left as many as 15 or 16 defensemen with a case to be in the conversation.

There is no clear-cut favorite. If someone says there is, that someone isn't paying nearly enough attention to the data available to judge defensemen.

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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Evaluating Talbot, Hammond

Thursday, 03.12.2015 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top 30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.

What's made the appeal and allure of goaltenders like the New York Rangers' Cam Talbot and the Ottawa Senators' Andrew Hammond so high this season is the element of here and now.

Goaltending can be broken down into a series of events over the course of a season. We try to select players in fantasy hockey, to the best of our ability, based on prior results and how consistent goalies have been in the past; at what chances we think they have of duplicated high levels of productivity.

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Flames' Gaudreau scores twice to join select company

Thursday, 03.12.2015 / 11:45 AM / Top Performer

NHL.com

Johnny Gaudreau's heroics helped the Calgary Flames rally to another victory Wednesday while keeping them firmly in the race to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The rookie forward scored twice as part of five unanswered goals by the Flames en route to a 6-3 win against the Anaheim Ducks. The victory stretched Calgary's point streak to five straight games (4-0-1).

Gaudreau had a goal waved off 39 seconds after forward Matt Stajan opened the scoring for the Flames but scored the equalizer at 15:25 of the first period when he received a pass from forward Josh Jooris and connected on a backhand that went off each post before going over the line. Gaudreau's second goal came on the power play at 13:59 of the second when he finished a give-and-go with defenseman Dennis Wideman.

"Everyone's stepping up here, whether it's a defenseman or a forward, first line or fourth line," Gaudreau said. "It's great to see that too when we're coming down the playoff stretch here. It's going to help us in the long run."

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Bruins' Eriksson hears criticism, sticks to his game

Thursday, 03.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Out of his Boston Bruins uniform and equipment, forward Loui Eriksson walks through the dressing room and strikes a figure more reminiscent of Stefan Edberg than Terry O'Reilly.

At 6-foot-2, 196 pounds, Eriksson might be a few pounds shy of qualifying as a "big, bad Bruin." But one look at his coat-hanger shoulders and lanky legs completely rules out any chance that Eriksson can rival O'Reilly, Cam Neely or even teammate Milan Lucic in terms of punishing physicality and the stereotype that has characterized the ideal Bruins player for more than 90 years.

Eriksson is not built to punish opposing defensemen on the forecheck or staple combatants to the glass in the corners. That doesn't mean he can't use other means to be effective and make himself invaluable to the Bruins.

Obviously he has found a way during his second season to increase his importance to Boston's fortunes; after 66 games he leads all Bruins forwards in average ice time at 18:19.

Eriksson has played in all but one of the Bruins' games and he has 17 goals and 39 points, seven goals and two points more than he had in 61 games last season. His 2.7 shot attempts relative (SAT Rel) ranks fifth among Boston's forwards. Eriksson's bounce-back sophomore season continues when the Bruins host the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TVA, SN360, SUN, NESN).

"That's not really been my game," the soft-spoken Eriksson said about the bruising approach many Bruins stars have taken to the sport over the years. "I've always been trying to have a good stick and try to take away pucks from other guys. That's how I've been playing ever since I came over and [began] playing in the NHL. I don't think it'll change in that way."


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Unmasked: Lessons learned letting Lack succeed

Thursday, 03.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Unmasked

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- For Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, the mantra "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is more than a cliché or the lyrics of a pop song by Kelly Clarkson.

Lack has lived the lesson behind those words. Last season, he survived an all-out attack on his game and faced a litany of doubters about his ability to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. Neither was likely the intention of coach John Tortorella, but instead the result of Lack being thrown into the fire by starting 19 consecutive games during a 41-day span after Roberto Luongo was sent to the Florida Panthers prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.

The heavy workload, combined with the fact Lack was a little more than one year removed from major hip surgery, caused his body and his game to disintegrate. His save percentage, which was .925 when the streak started Feb. 26, dropped to .900. When the streak ended with a loss to the Anaheim Ducks on April 7, Lack was too tired and too sore to accept an invitation to represent Sweden at the IIHF World Championship.

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Wheat Kings' Provorov proving self in North America

Thursday, 03.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Defenseman Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League has been described by teammates as a breakout machine.

The 6-foot, 191-pound native of Yaroslavl, Russia, has lived up to that billing in his first WHL season.

"He's good in all aspects of the game," defense partner Ryan Pilon said. "He can take the body and score some highlight-reel goals."

Provorov isn't your typical one-year wonder from Russia having success in North America.

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Fantasy top 60 'D': Flames' Russell in high-profile role

Wednesday, 03.11.2015 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with in-depth defensemen analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer will be your go-to guy for fantasy blue line advice all season long.

The Calgary Flames are in the middle of a rebuild, but that didn't stop them from becoming one of the best stories of the season. Their situation dimmed a bit when the face of that success, Mark Giordano, was lost for the remainder of the season after surgery to have a biceps injury repaired, but they aren't done yet, managing a 3-1-1 record without their captain.

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Quote of the Day

I look forward to the process, the battle, the pain, the fun, the journey.  It's going to be a long one but it's going to be a lot of fun. If you think there is no pain coming, there is pain coming.

— Mike Babcock, introduced as coach of the Toronto on Thursday, had a warning for fans