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Top-rated players in draft have been teammates, rivals

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 7:07 PM / 2015 NHL Draft

Joe Yerdon - Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The top-four North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings didn't need to come to the Draft Combine this week to get acquainted. If anything, some of them know each other all too well.

Forwards Connor McDavid, expected to be the first player taken, and Dylan Strome were teammates with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. Boston University forward Jack Eichel, likely to be the second player taken, played against defenseman Noah Hanifin at archrival Boston College.

Those four players headline what's believed to be one of the most talented draft classes in years, though McDavid and Eichel are getting the majority of the attention.

Stats reveal Stralman's hidden value to Lightning

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 6:00 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

TAMPA -- A year ago, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman was three wins shy of winning the Stanley Cup but also faced a summer of uncertainty as an unrestricted free agent.

The pain of losing in the Stanley Cup Final was compounded when his agent and the New York Rangers were unable to work out a new contract.

"At that time, I was very disappointed I didn't get a chance to stay. Honestly, that's all I wanted to do," Stralman said.

The disappointment didn't last very long. Stralman signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Lightning hours after the free agency period opened July 1, and it has proven to be a perfect match.

Stralman is no longer one of the most underrated players in the NHL. He's a top-pairing defenseman and back in the Stanley Cup Final, helping the Lightning defeat the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final in the process.

The Chicago Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 1-0 after a 2-1 victory in Game 1. Game 2 is at Amalie Arena on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Lightning hope adjustments pay off again in Game 2

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 5:50 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Corey Long - Correspondent

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are playing catch-up after the first game of a series for the third time in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Each of the Lightning's four series-openers has been decided by one goal. They've lost three, including Game 1 of the Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, 2-1 on Wednesday. Game 2 will be at Amalie Arena on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he feels the first game of a best-of-7 series can be a learning process.

"Game 1 is definitely a feeling-out period, especially in this series when you haven't played these teams very often," Cooper said Friday. "Especially the [New York] Rangers [in the Eastern Conference Final], we played them in December. We hadn't seen too much of them. I think some of the other games; we've lost what now, three out of the four Game 1s. So maybe we've got a little bit more panic since we were down in Game 1. I don't know, there's maybe some more focus in Game 2."

Desjardins: Got some rest, good eats, ready to go

Andrew Desjardins - Special to

Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins will be blogging for periodically throughout the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In this edition, he discusses what he did on a rare day off with two full days off before Game 2 at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

TAMPA -- Having two off days between games can be nice because you can split them into two separate categories.

Priority No. 1 Thursday was to kind of rest your body, get some good eats, get the right things into your body, hydrate.

But also to just sleep and rest. It's always hard to sleep after games. Every game's different, but sometimes you don't get to bed until 3 or 4 in the morning, for myself. So I try to sleep in, but it's kind of hard to sleep in sometimes. So I got up, ate breakfast, and went back to sleep.

Blackhawks' top four keep carrying load on defense

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 5:28 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

TAMPA -- Logic and an understanding of the limits of the human body would suggest that this cannot last.

The Chicago Blackhawks have ridden four defensemen into the Stanley Cup Final, and they have ridden them hard. Each of the four, Duncan Keith (31:27), Brent Seabrook (26:21), Niklas Hjalmarsson (26:20) and Johnny Oduya (25:17), is averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game.

No other healthy Blackhawks defenseman is averaging more than 11 minutes.

In the Western Conference Final, the Anaheim Ducks figured they would pound those four defensemen every chance they got, on every forecheck, on every Blackhawks breakout and every pass attempt. Eventually, the physical toll being dished out had to have an effect, and over the course of a long series the Ducks would see the benefit of it.

It was a very sound theory. It didn't work.

Blackhawks' Keith entering Hall of Fame company

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 4:19 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

TAMPA -- Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch keeps seeing the same thing when he watches Duncan Keith play for the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs: a future Hall of Fame defenseman.

"I don't know how it couldn't be looked at that way," Leetch told "From the eye test. From watching him on the ice. His age. And then you bring up the individual and team awards, I'm not sure how you'd be able to keep him out."

Keith, 31, is three wins away from winning the Stanley Cup for the third time. The Blackhawks lead the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final with Game 2 at Amalie Arena on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Senators GM Murray inducted into Ottawa Sports HOF

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 2:42 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Stevenson - Correspondent

OTTAWA -- As a teenager from the Ottawa Valley town of Shawville, west of Canada's capital and across the Ottawa River in Quebec, Bryan Murray would travel into the city to play hockey.

Murray, 15 at the time, played for the Shawville Pontiacs in a Senior A hockey league, competing against and playing with men 20 years older. They played at the Auditorium when they visited Ottawa, a building long gone.

Almost 57 years later and a few blocks away from where the Auditorium used to stand, Murray will be inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame on Friday.

"Obviously, very proud of that," said the 72-year-old Ottawa Senators general manager, who will be honored for his career in hockey, which includes 34 years in the NHL as a coach and manager.

"I'm a Valley boy from Shawville. Coming to Ottawa was a big event. We didn't come that often. We were the country bumpkins, I guess, at that point, but when we came we usually beat them in hockey."

Shore, Manchester aim for franchise's first Calder Cup

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 1:42 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to

For a team that has dominated the American Hockey League from the start of the season, Saturday night will mark the Manchester Monarchs' first Calder Cup Final appearance in the franchise's 14-year history. Despite all the individual and team accolades, and the continued success in 2014-15, the top development affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings remains even-keeled, ready to take on anything.

"Whether we're up in a game or down in a game, everyone is still the same," Monarchs center Nick Shore said. "If we keep playing the way that we can, we still have a really good chance at the end of the night. It was a good series for us to sweep Hartford [in the conference finals] and that earned us the 10 days to rest and get ready for the next one."

After dispatching familiar foes in the Portland Pirates, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and Hartford Wolf Pack, "the next one" is the 2015 Calder Cup Final against the Utica Comets, a team that they haven't played this season.

Two-way forwards Palat, Hossa ready to shine in Final

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 1:38 PM / Lightning vs Blackhawks - 2015 Stanley Cup Final

Evan Sporer - Staff Writer

The Selke Trophy, awarded annually to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game, is generally the province of centers.

In January, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper made a case for Ondrej Palat, who plays on the left wing, to break the run of centers winning the award for each of the past 10 years.

"I still believe Palat is the straw that stirs the drink on that line," Cooper said. "He's oozing with hockey sense and he's skilled. He is like Patrice Bergeron as a winger to me."

Opposite Palat in the Stanley Cup Final is Marian Hossa, another defensively skilled forward whom the Selke has eluded.

Each of these players, though, is key in their team's defensive schemes, and each will be relied upon in that capacity for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) as the Tampa Bay Lightning look to even up the series with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Combine bike tests will push prospects to their limits

Friday, 06.05.2015 / 8:03 AM / 2015 NHL Draft

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Goaltender Luke Opilka offered a simple approach to the two stationary bike tests the players at the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine will take part in at HarborCenter during the next two days.

"I haven't prepared ahead of time other than my regular training. But I'm going in there with the mindset to do my best and just ride until I drop; that's my plan," Opilka said.

He might not be alone in his approach.

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You could feel it. You could feel that they were going after each other and trying to win the game for their team.

— Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom on Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, in which Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby each scored hat tricks
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