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Features

Special teams, home ice X-factors for Islanders

Wednesday, 09.30.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders may have taken some teams by surprise last season when they won 47 games and emerged among the elite in the Metropolitan Division.

They know they won't be surprising anybody this time around, which could make the road to the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs a tad bumpier.

"Everybody that's involved in management really believes in the group," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "I think more importantly, the players believe in one another. I think we have the personnel to go out and get the job done. We feel that we came up short last year.

"We have a lot to prove. Nothing's going to be given to us. We know it's going to be much harder this season. Teams are going to be expecting us now, and we're not going to beat anybody by coming out blind. We're ready for the test and we're grateful we've got the same group in here because it's a fun group to win with."

Here are three X-factors that will impact the Islanders' postseason chances:

Islanders poised to face new challenges in new home

Wednesday, 09.30.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams.

NEW YORK -- After 43 years at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, the New York Islanders have a new address.

The Islanders will open the 2015-16 season against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 9 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The players are excited about the opportunity to play their home games in a state-of-the-art arena, but the days of driving 10-15 minutes from their homes to the Coliseum are in the rearview mirror.

So if they plan on qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in four seasons, the Islanders know they will have to get acclimated to their new surroundings quickly.

"It's going to be different," right wing Kyle Okposo said. "There's some new challenges, new adjustments that are going to have to be made by everybody. It's going to be a feeling-out process kind of getting used to the routine and that whole bit, because we'd been at Nassau and successful and it's easy for us to live out on the Island. We're just going to have to get used to everything, but we're excited about the new facilities and the new building."

Depth at center, defensemen X-factors for Capitals

Wednesday, 09.30.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Katie Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- In an effort to keep the Stanley Cup window wide open, the Washington Capitals spent last season introducing young players into their lineup. Now it's time for them to become bigger contributors.

Evgeny Kuznetsov starts his second full NHL season, and Andre Burakovsky should be in the NHL full-time after spending a portion of last season with Hershey in the American Hockey League. How those forwards perform will go a long way to competing in what is primed to be a tough Metropolitan Division.

Here are three X-factors that will impact whether the Capitals then can get over the hump in the postseason:

Capitals put pieces in place to extend playoff stay

Wednesday, 09.30.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Katie Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams.

WASHINGTON -- After another disappointing exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan again turned his attention to building a championship team.

Washington blew a 3-1 series lead and was eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round by the New York Rangers. MacLellan had to contend with re-signing a handful of restricted free agents (including No. 1 goaltender Braden Holtby) and manage the loss of several veteran players. He signed forward Justin Williams and acquired forward T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues in a trade for Troy Brouwer.

The Capitals believe the additions of Oshie and Williams will give them the edge they've been missing during the postseason.

"I bring a little bit of comfort, as a guy who's been there and gone all the way," said Williams, who has won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes and twice with the Los Angeles Kings. "But listen, this is new for me. This is a new team, and I'm just trying to fit in and find my role as best as I can. I'm not a savior by any means of the word. I'm just coming here to be a piece with this team, which I think is a championship team."

Malkin's line leads Penguins to Hockeyville win

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 11:55 PM / Kraft Hockeyville USA

Kristen Nelson - NHL.com Correspondent

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- There are roughly 4,000 seats in the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. But when Sergei Plotnikov scored 14 seconds into the Pittsburgh Penguins' preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, the building sounded as loud as a packed NHL arena.

The line of center Evgeni Malkin between Plotnikov and Patric Hornqvist set the tempo for the Penguins, combining for two of Pittsburgh's goals in its 4-2 victory against Tampa Bay in the preseason game that was the centerpiece of being named Kraft Hockeyville USA.

"I like what I see," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "Certainly Hornqvist and [Malkin], we thought they had some chemistry before, but Sergei Plotnikov, I know people have talked about him. He's fit in better and better every night that I see him."

Penguins defeat Lightning in Hockeyville USA game

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 11:00 PM / Kraft Hockeyville USA

David Satriano - NHL.com Staff Writer

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- The fans in Johnstown, Pa., waited more than five months for the preseason game Tuesday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning since the city won the inaugural title of Kraft Hockeyville USA in May.

They didn't have to wait long to have something to cheer about with the hometown Penguins scoring on the first shift in their 4-2 win.

Sergei Plotnikov's backhand shot beat Lightning goalie Kristers Gudlevskis 14 seconds into the first period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, Plotnikov's linemates, assisted on the goal, which sent the crowd crammed in the small arena into a frenzy.

The crowd was mostly pro-Penguins; Johnstown is 90 miles from Pittsburgh and most of the residents are Penguins fans. Members from each team before the game said they expected it to feel like a playoff atmosphere, and it did all night in the sold-out arena with 4,000 screaming fans waving rally towels and cheering "Let's go Pens" most of the game.

Penguins' Bennett, Lightning's Killorn visit school

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 5:25 PM / Kraft Hockeyville USA

Kristen Nelson - NHL.com Correspondent

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Students at Westmont Hilltop Middle School couldn't really focus on what their teachers were going over in class on Tuesday. They couldn't keep their minds off the visitors scheduled for the end of the school day.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Beau Bennett and Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn visited the school as part of the Kraft Hockeyville USA celebration prior to the preseason game between their teams at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The students piled into the gym, which was covered in signs made by students for the Penguins, and started chants well before anyone arrived.

Penguins, Lightning players impressed by Johnstown

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 2:08 PM / Kraft Hockeyville USA

David Satriano - NHL.com Staff Writer

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- There has been a noticeable buzz in the area the past few days with the anticipation of the preseason game Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning as part of Kraft Hockeyville USA here at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

The Lightning received a warm welcome upon arriving in town, despite a heavy rain and the fact most fans here root for the Penguins; Pittsburgh is a 90-minute drive west

"Did you see the amount of people out there?" Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It was unreal. I don't know how to describe the pregame skate, being in front of a packed house. I see why they were crowned Kraft Hockeyville. I look at the response we were getting and we were the road team."

Chychrun among Central Scouting's A-rated players

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 9:30 AM / 2016 NHL Draft

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Sarnia Sting defenseman Jakob Chychrun, a projected first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, appears ready to make up for lost time.

Chychrun, who had 16 goals and 17 assists in 42 games last season as a rookie in the Ontario Hockey League, missed 26 regular-season games and five OHL playoff games because of an upper-body injury. Despite the absence, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound left-shot defender was a nominee for OHL rookie of the year and defenseman of the year.

"There's lots of expectations just because of how he's performed more than anything else, but it's compounded a little bit because we haven't been able to see as much of him than we would have liked," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "There's a lot of anticipation leading into his OHL season."

Matthews' smooth transition earns him top rating

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 9:30 AM / 2016 NHL Draft

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

It hasn't taken Auston Matthews very long to become an international success.

Matthews, a 6-foot-1, 194-pound center who many project will be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, made headlines in August after announcing he would join ZSC in Switzerland's top professional league this season instead of playing NCAA hockey or in the Canadian Hockey League.

The decision by Matthews was made with the help of his parents and player agents Pat Brisson and Judd Moldaver of CAA Sports.

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