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NHL Insider

Thomas Vanek finally found his way with Wild

Friday, 03.27.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Since entering the NHL as a 21-year-old with the Buffalo Sabres, Thomas Vanek has earned the reputation as one of the League's premier goal-scorers. Over that span, Vanek ranks third in power-play goals, eighth in goals and 13th in game-winning goals.

Thomas Vanek
Left Wing - MIN
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 49
SOG: 159 | +/-: -4
It's the reason the Minnesota Wild committed three years and $19.5 million to Vanek in July. But the season wasn't going according to plan for the Wild or for Vanek, who got off to one of the slowest starts of his career.

Minnesota's 16-11-1 start made it easy to forgive Vanek, who was traded twice last season after playing the first eight of his NHL career with the Sabres.

"I went from left to right, to left to right, and finding linemates hasn't been as steady as you'd want it to be," Vanek said last week. "That's what happens when you come to a new place, you try and find chemistry."

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Bruins face do-or-die stretch with playoffs at stake

Thursday, 03.26.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- A favorite tactic of heels in wrestling is to start hitting their opponent before the bell rings in order to gain an advantage.

With nine games left in the Boston Bruins' regular season, they need to gain a similar edge by playing at a higher level than they're used to performing at this time of year.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs don't begin until April 15, but for the Bruins the bell has rung. In order to qualify for the eighth straight year they have to start playing playoff-caliber hockey right now. The Bruins trail the Ottawa Senators by one point for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference after leading by seven points as recently as March 10.

The Bruins will try to snap a five-game losing streak (0-3-2) against the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m.; NHLN-US, TVA Sports).

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LaFontaine savors one last visit to Nassau Coliseum

Wednesday, 03.25.2015 / 8:57 PM / NHL Insider

Pat LaFontaine - Special to NHL.com

About three months ago, I received a message from Garth Snow, the general manager of the New York Islanders, asking me to get in touch with him. He mentioned to me that the Islanders were going to be bringing back a lot of the players who have banners hanging from the rafters at Nassau Coliseum.

Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Clark Gillies, Bobby Nystrom, all of those guys who won championships, along with other players from different eras were going to be brought in to say goodbye to the Old Barn and to salute the fans in the last season on Long Island.

Garth explained that they wanted to end the final season on a high note and asked me to come out for a ceremonial puck drop and to do some “meet-and-greets” with the fans and sponsors. I told Garth that I was honored by the gesture he and Charles Wang had extended to me, and it would be my pleasure to attend.

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Hammond hardly the only hero in Senators' surge

Wednesday, 03.25.2015 / 4:04 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Stevenson - NHL.com Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Andrew Hammond has captured much of the hockey world's attention during the Ottawa Senators' run from outlier to Stanley Cup Playoffs contender in the past six weeks.

Though the 27-year-old "Hamburglar" embarking on his NHL career with a 14-0-1 record as a starter might be the biggest story, there are other significant reasons the Senators have overtaken the Boston Bruins for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

The return of veteran defenseman Marc Methot from injury to form one of the NHL's top defensive pairings with Erik Karlsson (who's in Norris Trophy form these days), the contributions of young forwards Curtis Lazar, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone, and the coaching of Dave Cameron have been keys to the Senators resurgence.

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Blackhawks' Timonen reflects on time with Flyers

Wednesday, 03.25.2015 / 3:22 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Kimmo Timonen was in the midst of his first press gathering in Philadelphia since the Philadelphia Flyers traded him Feb. 27.

After seven seasons as a member of the Flyers, Timonen was asked how the crowd would react for his return to Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA Sports).

Timonen, the stoic 40-year-old Finn, took several beats to gather himself as the memories of the past washed over him.

"I only have good memories here," he finally said. "I'm sure it's going to be good. All the things that happened here. ... I'm happy to be here."

Flyers fans likely will be happy to see Timonen, who helped the Flyers make the Stanley Cup Playoffs six times, reach the Eastern Conference Final twice and make it to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. His former teammates certainly are happy to see him.

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Flyers' Emery savored chance after hip surgery

Wednesday, 03.25.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Five years ago, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ray Emery received what was supposed to be a hockey death sentence. He was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in his right hip. Not only was his hockey career over, walking normally again was in question.

Today, as Emery prepares for a game against the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports), he has a Stanley Cup ring (won with the Blackhawks), is in the second season of his second stint with the Flyers, and has no intention of putting his pads away any time soon.

Emery said early in the 2009-10 season with the Flyers, he felt pain in his hip, groin and pelvis. Surgery in December 2009 to repair torn abdominal muscles kept him out six weeks. But on Feb. 1, 2010 in a game at the Calgary Flames, the pain returned worse.

"That game in Calgary I said, 'Something's not right,'" Emery said. "Feels like my leg is going to fall off."

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Five things to watch when Flyers host Blackhawks

Wednesday, 03.25.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Chicago Blackhawks' week of playing against teams that are trying to play the spoiler role continues at the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

After a 3-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, the Blackhawks' continued pursuit of a Central Division crown will be featured this week in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA) from Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things to watch between the Blackhawks and Flyers:

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LaFontaine returns to Islanders roots at Coliseum

Tuesday, 03.24.2015 / 2:26 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Pat LaFontaine arrived at Nassau Coliseum in 1984 and was asked to help the New York Islanders win the Stanley Cup for a fifth consecutive year.

They nearly pulled it off, reaching the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Edmonton Oilers in five games. LaFontaine, who was 19 at the time and New York's first-round pick (No. 3) a year prior, had three goals and six assists in 19 playoff games.

"We went on an unbelievable run," LaFontaine said. "If not for a few injuries and a few guys named [Mark] Messier and [Wayne] Gretzky, we might have won."

LaFontaine was back at the Coliseum on Tuesday, when he will be honored prior to the Islanders game against the Minnesota Wild. Nearly a decade passed between visits to what has been the Islanders' only home, but owner Charles Wang and general Garth Snow each reached out to LaFontaine with hopes of luring him back for what promises to be a special night.

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Hammond's historic run has Senators in playoff spot

Tuesday, 03.24.2015 / 11:14 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Andrew Hammond
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 14-0-1
GAA: 1.67 | SVP: .946
The transaction line came and went Jan. 29, like so many others do during the course of an 82-game NHL season.

The Ottawa Senators summoned a goaltender from the Binghamton Senators, their American Hockey League team to hold down the backup spot behind Robin Lehner while starter Craig Anderson recovered from a hand injury.

Lehner started nine straight games; then came Feb. 16 at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Late in the second period Lehner and forward Clarke MacArthur collided and Lehner sustained a concussion. That pressed into action the unknown minor-league goaltender; an undrafted 27-year-old with an .898 save percentage and 3.51 goals-against average in 25 AHL games. A goaltender who hadn't seen a puck in a competitive environment since allowing four goals on 37 shots in a 5-2 loss to the St. John's Ice Caps on Jan. 23.

The Senators were nine points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and were trending toward missing the postseason for a second straight season.

So expectations were pretty low when Andrew Hammond entered the net at Canadian Tire Centre.

Five weeks later, Hammond has Hamburglered his way into one of the most remarkable seasons in NHL history.

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Confident Kings face season-defining road trip

Tuesday, 03.24.2015 / 9:33 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- This is the regular season and that was the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Los Angeles Kings have to re-create or at least re-enact how they played with zero room for error in winning the Stanley Cup last season if they're going to have a chance to defend it this season.

They expect they will be able to do it. Confidence remains high even though consistency has been lacking.

"We know we can do it," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "We're confident that we will do it. There's no hope involved in that."

The Kings head into their game Tuesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) trailing the contenders in the Western Conference playoff race with 10 games remaining. They are two points behind the Calgary Flames for third in the Pacific Division and four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

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Quote of the Day

It is really special. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight, and for my first [NHL] game in here it was great. I played here as an elementary-school player in the city championships and this was my first time back. It was a lot of fun.

— Toronto native Brandon Pirri after scoring 2 goals for Panthers in win at Maple Leafs on Thursday
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