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NHL Insider

Blues battle travel delay before facing Sharks

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 6:14 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- It was supposed to be the end of a successful three-game trip for the St. Louis Blues.

The trip ended with a 4-3 shootout win at the Vancouver Canucks, and they were supposed to board a plane home, with an estimated arrival of 4 p.m. local time Monday.

That didn't quite go according to plan, however.

Instead, the Blues didn't leave Vancouver until after midnight Pacific Standard Time, and finally landed in St. Louis at 6:30 a.m. CT on Tuesday. The 14-hour delay was because of mechanical issues with their charter plane. So rather than get a day's rest then take the ice for the morning skate ahead of a game Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2), the Blues were at home ... and in bed.

Blues right wing Chris Stewart, asked if he experienced anything quite like this, wasted little time thinking about an answer.

"No," he said. "That's as close to the American [Hockey] League travel you're going to get there as far as rest.

Goaltending, scoring could have Leafs in contention

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 1:05 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

With only one-third of the Toronto Maple Leafs' season in the books, it's still too early to start making plans for playoff hockey at Air Canada Centre.

The discussion phase, however, has begun as the Maple Leafs appear to be charting a course to the postseason, which would be their first participation in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in nine years.

Toronto has won six of its past seven games to become one of five teams in the NHL with at least 10 wins so far this season. The Maple Leafs' 20 points put them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for first in the Northeast Division, heading into their game Tuesday in Tampa, Fla.

This isn't the first time these Maple Leafs have started a season well. Toronto was 10-5-1 after 16 games last season, but there were obvious flaws and eventually they were exposed as non-playoff contenders.

Maybe these aren't the same ol' Leafs anymore. Here are five reasons why:

Numbers tell the story of Blackhawks' blistering start

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 1:00 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

With the 2012-13 season having passed the quarter mark, two numbers jump off the page when you look at the Chicago Blackhawks.

One is 15, for the number of games they've played.

The other is 12, for the number of wins they have.

The Blackhawks' 12-0-3 start to the season is remarkable on a number of levels, one of which is that it puts them one game away from tying the NHL record for the longest streak without a regulation loss to start a season -- 16 games, held by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks, who started 12-0-4.

The Ducks finished that season by hoisting the Stanley Cup; what does the future hold for these Blackhawks?

That's a question that won't be answered until the springtime. For now, let's go inside the numbers on the Blackhawks' blistering start:

Tippett/Burke tandem gives Phoenix rock-solid 'D'

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 10:21 AM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Seeing his first action in the National Hockey League in almost two years, recent Phoenix Coyotes call-up Chad Johnson made 21 stops against the Nashville Predators to earn his first NHL shutout. For most goaltenders, that would have been a crowning achievement.

For the Coyotes, it's par for the course.

Following Johnson's return to Portland of the American Hockey League, starter Mike Smith, who had been nursing a lower-body injury, posted three shutouts in eight games. It's all a byproduct of the stifling defense coach Dave Tippett has instituted since coming to Phoenix prior to the start of the 2009-10 season. It's a system that has benefitted greatly from the work of goaltending coach Sean Burke.

"I think he's the best," Tippett said of Burke. "He's done a heck of a job for us."

Fasth found way to Ducks by working hard in Sweden

Friday, 02.15.2013 / 12:00 PM / NHL Insider

Risto Pakarinen - Correspondent

Viktor Fasth
Goalie - ANA
RECORD: 6-0-0
GAA: 1.74 | SVP: 0.933
When goalie Viktor Fasth signed a two-year contract with Stockholm AIK in 2010, it was barely news in Sweden. The biggest morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, had a three-line blurb about it, and Aftonbladet, the biggest daily, pulled the general manager's comments off AIK's website.

No wonder. AIK played in the second- and third-tier leagues for years and had just then, in 2010, earned promotion to the Swedish Elite League. Fasth, too, spent his career in the second- and third-tier leagues, and had just signed his first SEL contract at 27.

12 surprises from the first quarter of the season

Friday, 02.15.2013 / 1:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

Maybe the biggest surprise from the first few weeks of the 2012-13 NHL season is this: There aren't that many surprises.

Sure, some teams are off to better or worse starts than expected, but outside of the Anaheim Ducks challenging for the top spot in the Western Conference and essentially having the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals swap Eastern places, no team is more than a couple of victories away from either where it was at the end of last season or where most pundits expected it to be.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are in 13th place in the West, but the Los Angeles Kings also are a couple of games-played short of most of the field.

As for individual accomplishments, take a look at the League's scoring leaderboard and there are a lot of familiar faces at or near the top. Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek setting the pace is a slight surprise, but he's an elite player who has proven he can score in bunches.

Kekalainen's hiring a big deal to fellow NHL Finns

Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 2:45 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

New Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen doesn't see himself as any different from the 29 other GMs in the NHL. However, he does understand the significance of his hiring Wednesday, which made him the first European-born full-time GM of an NHL team.

"I am proud, but at the same time I'm going to try to approach it in a neutral way, just as I approach it with players," he said on a conference call Wednesday. "We're not favoring Finns or Europeans or anybody else based on the cover of their passport. I'm proud to be Finn, I'm proud to be the first European [GM]. But the work starts now, the challenge for me starts now. Then it's up to my ability and not my nationality to do the job and get the job done. I'm proud, but at the same time I try to put it in the background. I'm proud about it and I'm proud to be a European and proud to be a Finn."

Fellow Finns around the NHL also were proud.

Anaheim Ducks star forward Teemu Selanne, the leading Finnish-born scorer in NHL history, told the Los Angeles Times that Kekalainen's hiring was "awesome news. He is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the game. He is going to be great for Columbus. Very happy for him."

Sid back to setting marks; fifth fastest to 400 assists

Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 11:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Sidney Crosby entered the NHL record books again, and the Pittsburgh Penguins captain might just be warming up.

Crosby had a goal and two assists in the Penguins' 4-2 defeat of the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. The second assist, on James Neal's second-period goal, was the 400th of Crosby's career. Coming in his 448th game, it made Crosby the fifth-fastest player to reach that mark, behind Wayne Gretzky (290 games), Mario Lemieux (353), Peter Stastny (411) and Bobby Orr (437).

Johansen, Murray, '13 draft offer hope in Columbus

Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 10:15 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

To be clear, the challenge in front of new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and president John Davidson is an ample one. The new regime for the Columbus Blue Jackets will try to mold a franchise with zero Stanley Cup Playoff victories (and four postseason games) in its history into a consistent contender.

Though there is not a vast wealth of young talent to dream on like, say, in Edmonton or Florida, Kekalainen is not starting from scratch. Former general manager Scott Howson began the rebuilding process last season, and there are a few places to look on the Blue Jackets' organizational depth chart and see reasons for hope, even if more patience might be required.

European scouting director has the 411 on Kekalainen

Wednesday, 02.13.2013 / 11:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Don't let the Finnish name fool you.

Jarmo Kekalainen, who was named the first European general manager in NHL history on Wednesday by Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson, is more privy to the North American culture and game than some might think.

He played two years at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., in the late 1980s, spent three seasons in the NHL with the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators in the early 1990s, and even finished the Boston Marathon in under three hours.

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Quote of the Day

He's only 17 but he can see the ice so well and he moves the puck and goes to the open ice all the time, so I just think he's a player that is ready to play in the NHL. I'm really looking forward to coaching someone like this.

— U.S. National Junior Team coach Ron Wilson on Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft