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NHL Insider

Capitals, Hurricanes see seasons swing in a month

Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 2:50 PM / NHL Insider

Ben Raby - Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Ask members of the once-struggling Washington Capitals when their season turned around, and there are a myriad of answers.

One theory is that a players only meeting after a 2-8-1 start helped steer the team in the right direction (the Capitals are 19-9-1 since).

Others point to the Capitals’ two-game sweep against the Winnipeg Jets, March 21-22, in which they outscored their opponent 10-1 at MTS Centre and gained four points on the then-Southeast Division-leaders.

There is also the thought that a comeback win against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 14 not only saved Washington’s season but also put a serious dent in Carolina’s once promising campaign.

Consider that the Hurricanes entered that game having won six of seven (including a 4-0 shutout of the Capitals two nights earlier) and were 10 points clear of Washington for first place in the Southeast Division. Exactly four weeks later, the teams meet Thursday at Verizon Center, this time with the Capitals 10 points ahead of the Hurricanes.

"It's definitely surprising," Capitals forward Eric Fehr said of the 20-point swing between the teams in less than a month.

Brodin earning place among elite young defenders

Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 2:18 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Myers - Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- By any measure, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin is having a solid season.

Throw in the fact he's a 19-year-old, and what Brodin is doing is almost unprecedented.

Though his offensive numbers won't blow anyone away, folks who have been around the NHL a long time are amazed at the things Brodin does on a nightly basis -- not because they show up in the box score, but because they've helped put the Wild back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs chase for the first time in five years.

Brodin has two goals and seven assists this season, not eye-popping numbers. But dig a little deeper and it becomes clear why people in Minnesota believe they have one of the game's truly elite young defensemen.

Young, in this case, is not subjective: Brodin is the youngest defenseman in the NHL.

Maple Leafs impressed by younger Kessel's success

Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 1:34 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

With four goals in a home-and-home series against the New York Rangers this week, Phil Kessel helped the Toronto Maple Leafs capture three out of a possible four points.

But regardless of what Kessel does over the next few days, the week likely belongs to his younger sister, Amanda.

Three weeks after capturing the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in NCAA Division I women's ice hockey, the University of Minnesota junior scored the game-winning goal Monday night against Canada to help the United States capture the 2013 Women's World Championship.

The championship goal brought to an end a magical season for Kessel, who won a second consecutive NCAA championship and led the Golden Gophers to a historic undefeated season.

Kings' blue line features feel-good story Muzzin

Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The National Hockey League was far from Jake Muzzin's mind in the summer of 2009.

Muzzin was 19 and had just finished his third season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007, but his career was set back by surgery to repair two herniated disks in his back that forced him to miss his rookie season and half his second year.

Muzzin was kind of like any other teenager, admittedly drifting into a sedentary state.

"Going into last year of training I probably hit 240 [pounds]," Muzzin said. "We didn't make the playoffs, and we were done early, and I kind of took a month off there and got a little sloppy.

Bruins know they can be better

Wednesday, 04.10.2013 / 11:52 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Many coaches around the NHL would love to have the problems that Claude Julien has right now with the Boston Bruins, a first-place team that has won five of its past six games.

Those same coaches would also understand why Julien was trying to rip whatever hair he has left out of his head following the second period of Boston's 5-4 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Wednesday.

The Bruins are winning and their top-ranked penalty kill has been exceptional, but there are plenty of areas in their game that need to get cleaned up before the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around in 20 days.

They'll get another chance Thursday at TD Garden against the New York Islanders, who have won seven of nine and are looking to lock up their first playoff berth since 2007.

"The simple things sometimes are becoming complicated for us," Julien said.

Despite SO loss, Leafs inch closer to playoff spot

Wednesday, 04.10.2013 / 11:23 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK – With 3:32 elapsed in the second period Wednesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs had 16 shots on goal against the New York Rangers.

Toronto didn't register another shot during the next 24:23 of game time and only attempted four shots during the stretch. The Rangers scored a pair of goals during the Leafs' drought to erase a deficit in a game they would eventually win 3-2 in a shootout at Madison Square Garden.

The Leafs' shot total on the MSG scoreboard read "16" for nearly an hour in real time, but it was something coach Randy Carlyle said he didn't notice.

"I didn't even know that stat," Carlyle said. "Stats are for you guys. I'm not going to worry about it. We got a point and we're going to move on."

Line changes for Bruins are all about balance

Wednesday, 04.10.2013 / 3:11 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien made a point Wednesday morning of clarifying why Tyler Seguin has been shifted down to the third line and Gregory Campbell is now playing in the middle of Jaromir Jagr and Brad Marchand.

"There were no demotions and there were no promotions," Julien said. "For us it was balancing our lines, because it just seemed like every night we had one line going. It could have been a different line, but we could never get some offense from all of our lines.

"With [Patrice] Bergeron going out that changed things a little bit, so we felt with him out and Jags coming in it was important to balance our lineup a little bit."

It worked Monday night, when the Bruins got goals from three different lines to beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 6-2.

Because Bergeron is still out of the lineup with his concussion, Boston will go with the same lineup Wednesday at Prudential Center against the New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2), meaning another game for Seguin on the third line with Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille, and more scoring chances for Campbell in between Marchand and Jagr.

Offensive struggles threatening Devils' playoff hopes

Wednesday, 04.10.2013 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils are straining their necks looking up to the rafters after each misstep and each unlucky bounce.

They're searching for answers, for help, for reasons why the puck just isn't going into the net -- and finding nothing.

The results prove that.

"It's just mind-boggling why we haven't collected more points," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said Tuesday.

Mind-boggling, but true.

The Devils haven't won since Ilya Kovalchuk was put on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury two and a half weeks ago. They're 0-3-4 and are now facing a climb to get back into the top eight in the Eastern Conference, with a Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) next on the schedule.

"The way we have been playing, I think we deserve to be there [in the top eight], but we're not," center Travis Zajac told "It's the League right now; there's a fine line between being in the playoffs and sitting outside. The League is so competitive. We're not getting those bounces right now, but I think if we continue to play the same way we're going to get some wins here and hopefully build off that."

Healthy Johansson plays role in Capitals' success

Tuesday, 04.09.2013 / 5:00 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- The Washington Capitals had finished their morning skate Tuesday and Nicklas Backstrom was sitting next to linemate Marcus Johansson getting undressed.

The unoccupied locker to their right belonged to their other linemate, Alex Ovechkin.

Standing in front of the two of them was a phalanx of television cameras and reporters, wanting a good spot in front of Ovechkin's locker and paying no attention to the two all-star-caliber players sitting in front of them.

Finally, when it was revealed Ovechkin would not be arriving for a few minutes and it might be a good idea to grab some other interviews, a bunch of microphones were immediately thrown in front of Backstrom.

Do Kesler, Roy make Canucks serious contenders?

Tuesday, 04.09.2013 / 2:26 PM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVERRyan Kesler is back. So can the same be said for the Vancouver Canucks?

After treading water through a long slate of injuries, Kesler’s return against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday gives the Canucks four legitimate NHL centers for the first time all season. With Derek Roy added at the NHL Trade Deadline, the question is whether they also are back as legitimate contenders in the Western Conference.

Coming off consecutive Presidents' Trophies as the NHL’s top regular-season team, and two years removed from Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, Vancouver certainly hasn’t looked the part this season. The Canucks have been notably absent from the contender conversations dominated by the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and a Los Angeles Kings team that hasn't changed much since eliminating Vancouver in five games last season en route to the Stanley Cup.

"I think that's fair," captain Henrik Sedin said. "But if you look at the team we’ve had this year and the guys that were missing, we have done a tremendous job keeping it together and staying in the race. You have to look at the positive instead of looking at us not winning the Presidents' Trophy. We haven’t had the lineup we want -- or need -- to be successful in the playoffs."

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Quote of the Day

We don't know how long Carey will be out, but for us, it's business as usual.

— Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien on goaltender Carey Price, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury
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