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Maple Leafs agree to terms with forward Brad Boyes

Sunday, 09.27.2015 / 4:51 PM / NHL Free Agency 2015

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Sunday that the club has agreed to terms with free agent forward Brad Boyes on a one-year contract. Boyes was originally invited to training camp with Toronto on a professional try-out.

Boyes, 33, appeared in 78 regular season games last season with the Florida Panthers, collecting 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists) and 20 penalty minutes. The Mississauga, Ontario native has registered 481 points (203 goals, 278 assists) in 762 career NHL games with the San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Florida. He has also appeared in 17 career NHL playoff games tallying seven points (three goals, four assists). Boyes was originally selected by Toronto in the first round (24th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

Ex-NHL defenseman Woolley cherishing Hockeyville

Sunday, 09.27.2015 / 2:42 PM / Kraft Hockeyville USA

David Satriano - Staff Writer

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Jason Woolley played 14 seasons in the NHL and remembers what it's like to be a kid dreaming of playing professional hockey.

"Any time you get a chance to go out with the little guys… I was once a little kid who looked up to NHL players and now it's nice to be on the other side," Woolley said at Cambria County War Memorial Arena, where he coached kids in a youth hockey clinic as part of Kraft Hockeyville USA. "They're all out there, working hard having fun and smiling, and that's what it's all about."

Johnstown, named the winner of Kraft Hockeyville USA, will host a preseason game Tuesday between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN). The arena was also awarded $150,000 in upgrades, which were used on new lights, new glass and boards as well as on the sound system, locker rooms and scoreboard fixes.

Woolley, a retired defenseman who had 68 goals and 314 points with five teams in his NHL career, won a silver medal with Canada at the 1992 Albertville Olympics. He said for all he knows, future NHL players could be at the clinic.

Blues' Shattenkirk healthy, gaining elite status

Sunday, 09.27.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was so excited to implement his offseason training regimen again after the work he put in during the summer of 2014 produced noticeable results.

Following a program that included a change in diet and working with Ben Prentiss of Prentiss Hockey Performance, Shattenkirk came flying out of the gates last season.

Shattenkirk started with 16 points in 17 games and ingratiated himself into conversations about the top defensemen in the NHL. Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban, who are part of Norris Trophy talk on an annual basis, had company.

However, a seemingly innocent collision with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin early in the first period on Feb. 1 derailed a season full of promise that was destined to produce career-high stats for the 26-year-old.

An abdominal tear was the result. Shattenkirk missed 25 games and never was 100 percent despite returning in time for the stretch run.

Upstart Flames won't fly under radar this season

Sunday, 09.27.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

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

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames understand that in light of their surprising success in 2014-15, expectations heading into this season are considerably higher.

"It's a whole different ball game now," forward Joe Colborne said. "We had that 'everyone against us' mentality [last season], and that's easy to build around. You look at the top teams, they've learned how to win. It's easy to be second place; it's never easy to be first place. That's where we have to look at it. Now people are saying nice things about us. It's going to be a challenge to make sure we don't listen too much to it, just like we didn't listen when they said bad things last year."

The Flames were third in the Pacific Division with a 45-30-7 record, a 20-point increase from 2014-15, to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009. With an opening-series win, Calgary extended its season and advanced to the Western Conference Second Round for the first time since 2004, and the second time since winning the Cup in 1989.

The additions of forward Michael Frolik and defenseman Dougie Hamilton bolster a roster returning relatively intact.

Goaltending, young core X-factors for Flames

Sunday, 09.27.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- Last season, the Calgary Flames returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009 and advanced beyond the first round for the first time since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004.

The upstart Flames surprised many with their performance, which included a 20-point season-over-season increase from 2013-14 to finish third in the Pacific Division and a series win against the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference First Round.

With heightened expectations, Calgary is looking for a repeat performance.

"Last year, we believed we were a playoff team and we do again," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "We're looking forward to getting better, and on paper today, if you look at our roster, we do look like a deeper, better roster. Now, as players, we have to bring that and prove it on the ice. If you ask a lot of teams, they are going to feel like they got better this offseason as well. We have to be prepared right from Day One. I think our start last year was huge. We'll go from there."

Reloaded Penguins could still be among NHL's elite

Sunday, 09.27.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

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

PITTSBURGH -- Reports of the Pittsburgh Penguins' demise at the end of last season might have been premature.

After limping to a 4-9-2 record in their last 15 games and qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the final day of the regular season with a 2-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres, the Penguins failed to score more than one goal in four of their five games against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round. The sound loss to New York could have dealt a significant blow to Pittsburgh's current era led by forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Instead, the Penguins responded to the lackluster performance with an aggressive offseason aimed at retooling an offense in desperate need of balance. A defensive youth movement could add further firepower back into Pittsburgh's arsenal, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury seems poised to continue the steady play he's showcased through the past two seasons.

With a reinvigorated group, led by a more experienced Mike Johnston as coach, the Penguins could rejoin the Eastern Conference upper echelon in 2015-16.

Health, young defense among Penguins X-factors

Sunday, 09.27.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Wes Crosby - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- This season could be pivotal for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

They are again expected to be one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, as they've consistently been for several seasons, but that level of hype hasn't panned out since they won their most recent championship in 2009. The tools are there, with a revamped offense, a more experienced coach, and a defense whose youth could make the attack more lethal.

This season must be different, however. With the core of forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in its prime, Pittsburgh cannot afford many more seasons of early exits from the Stanley Cup Playoffs if this era is to be evaluated as successful.

Health has played an issue in seasons past, as have unexpected slumps in crucial moments. Malkin, who struggled with a sprained ankle through Pittsburgh's five playoff games in 2015, had the appropriate attitude toward last season.

"I don't remember," Malkin said. "That was last year. I'm looking to a new season."

If Malkin's teammates share his focus, Pittsburgh could re-emerge in 2015-16. Here are three X-factors that could determine if the Penguins will find success this season:

Hockeyville game adds to rich history of Johnstown

Sunday, 09.27.2015 / 3:00 AM / Kraft Hockeyville USA

Kristen Nelson - Correspondent

Underneath a low ceiling from which hung a glitchy scoreboard were 4,001 blue seats that hockey fans from Johnstown, Pa., braved countless snowstorms to sit in since 1950.

The scene within Cambria County War Memorial should be familiar for many hockey fans. Most notably serving as the set in "Slap Shot," Johnstown was titled Kraft Hockeyville USA after promoting its extensive hockey history.

Nestled in an old steel mill town, the 65-year-old arena received $150,000 in renovations, including an updated scoreboard and the removal of a few seats to expand the team benches. It will also serve as the site for a preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

Bruins' Beleskey not shying away from expectations

Saturday, 09.26.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Autumn in New England has suited Boston Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.

"I found a ton of good spots," said Beleskey, who signed a five-year, $19 million contract as an unrestricted free agent with Boston over the summer. "The restaurants are unbelievable. We've had a blast just walking around seeing everything. There's free concerts going on, people playing music everywhere, yoga classes outside. There's lots of stuff going on. It's pretty fun to see the city and be able to take it in."

Beleskey had better enjoy the perks that come with playing in Boston while he can, because the next several months and years don't shape up as a walk in the park. Off the ice, the Barrie, Ontario native is prepared for temperatures to take a biting dip. He brought his truck down from home last week.

On the ice, he's going to deal with a litany of expectations after he scored an NHL career-best 22 goals last season with the Anaheim Ducks. Beleskey was one of the most sought-after players in free agency, and when it opened July 1 he weighed his options before agreeing to terms with the Bruins that evening.

Kings to use long offseason as fuel for playoff push

Saturday, 09.26.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

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

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The first long summer for the Los Angeles Kings in six years could best be described as sobering.

The Kings missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009 and key members of their two Cup-winning teams left the organization during the offseason.

The Kings will now try to use the extra rest to rev up again and return to the postseason.

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