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NHL Insider

Young Oilers trying to translate potential into points

Thursday, 03.28.2013 / 12:21 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

If berths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs were awarded on potential, the Edmonton Oilers would have locked one up a long ago.

Boasting the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft from each of the last three seasons -- Nail Yakupov (2012), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Taylor Hall (2010) -- the Oilers are loaded with young, high-end offensive talent. That list does not include Jordan Eberle (22nd pick in 2008), 22, Magnus Paajarvi (10th pick in ‘09), 22, Sam Gagner (sixth pick in 2007), 23, and free-agent Justin Schultz, 22, whose 15 points lead all rookie defensemen.

Alas, entering Thursday, the Oilers found themselves sitting five points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It seems all of that talent requires some seasoning.

After a 3-0-2 streak that got them back into the race, the Oilers dropped two straight before bouncing back to blank the Blues 3-0 in St. Louis on Tuesday.

Seven-game homestand could be pivotal for Sharks

Wednesday, 03.27.2013 / 5:10 PM / NHL Insider

Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks open a seven-game homestand Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks, and no one has to tell them what's on the line during this upcoming stretch at HP Pavilion.

"It's more than important," forward Ryane Clowe said after the Sharks' morning skate. "It's probably crucial, the fact of where the standings are, where we sit and where this team wants to go. So if you're going to make a push with the amount of games we have left, it's crucial. It's probably a make-or-break home series."

The Sharks haven't missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2003, but with just 17 games remaining in their schedule, they'll undoubtedly need a strong homestand to avoid an early vacation.

With 34 points, the Sharks are tied with Nashville for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West -- San Jose has the edge, for now, based on having played two fewer games than the Predators. Dallas (33), Columbus (33), Edmonton (31), Phoenix (30) and Calgary (28) are each six or fewer points behind.

Murray ready to crank it up with Penguins

Wednesday, 03.27.2013 / 3:56 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- "Crankshaft" was anything but cranky during his first day with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Two days after being acquired via trade from the San Jose Sharks, 6-foot-3 defenseman Douglas Murray went through his first practice with his new team Wednesday.

At 245 pounds, Murray instantly became the largest Penguins player. If his first opportunity to speak to the Pittsburgh media is any indication, he also is among the Penguins who are larger-than-life.

Murray said several Penguins asked him what nickname he preferred, many asking specifically about "Crankshaft."

"I've had so many nicknames through the years -- one that actually stuck was Crankshaft," said Murray, who declined to discuss the origin of the moniker. "Over time, it became 'Cranky' -- which I don't like because I'm not a cranky person. I really don't care. People can call me whatever they like."

Cooper: Lightning not out of playoff race

Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 8:23 PM / NHL Insider

Lonnie Herman - Correspondent

TAMPA -- Jon Cooper isn't giving up on getting the Tampa Bay Lightning into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"To hear someone say, 'the playoffs are history,' I don't know," Cooper said Tuesday when he met the media on his first full day as the Lightning's new coach. "If someone said last year that a team in the American Hockey League will win 28 games in a row, not too many people would agree with that. Until the final buzzer goes on the last game of the season, I'm coming here to make the playoffs."

"When [general manager] Steve [Yzerman] offered me the job, I asked him, 'Are you sure you want to do this.' 'I really want to do this', he replied. 'Well if you do,' I told him, 'I'm really going to try and screw up your draft pick.'"

Habs coach Therrien reflective in return to Pittsburgh

Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 3:47 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Just before being dropped off at the still-new Consol Energy Center on Tuesday morning, Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien looked across Centre Avenue and saw a parking lot on the site where he once coached in a Stanley Cup Final.

"I was asking the taxi driver what they're going to do with that space," the former Pittsburgh Penguins coach said of the site where Mellon Arena once stood. "I've got some great memories from my time there."

For the first time since being fired by the Penguins four years ago, Therrien is back serving as a National Hockey League coach in Pittsburgh. His Canadiens play the Penguins on Tuesday night in a game matching the two teams at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Therrien kept his home in suburban Pittsburgh in between NHL coaching jobs, and he worked as a scout for the Minnesota Wild in the interim. That meant he frequently had a seat in the press box at Consol, a building he called "first-class."

Staal stands to reap benefits from Semin re-signing

Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 1:45 PM / NHL Insider

Kurt Dusterberg - Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- For most of Eric Staal's career, the Carolina Hurricanes have been looking for the just-right forward to play on the top line with the team captain.

For the next five seasons, Carolina has its man.

When the Hurricanes signed Alexander Semin to a five-year, $35-million extension Monday, they did so knowing the two players had built an undeniable chemistry over the first 30 games of the season. At times in recent years, Staal labored as a variety of players took turns on Carolina's top line.

Eric Staal
Center - CAR
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 35
SOG: 97 | +/-: 19
"We knew we had to get a guy who had a level equal to Eric," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "Some people say we took a chance, but we tried it and it's worked out well."

That "chance" was signing Semin to a one-year free-agent deal last summer. Semin, an elite scoring forward in Washington for six seasons, had fallen out of favor with the Capitals. His points-per-game had declined for three straight seasons. But Carolina quickly proved to be a place where he could thrive again.

"(It's) a good team for me. It's new life," Semin said. "This is a good place to play hockey."

In particular, Semin has built a strong relationship with Muller.

Why the Flyers aren't living up to expectations

Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 1:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

At the 2011 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers made three franchise-altering moves, dealing away centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and signing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract.

The struggles of Claude Giroux and the gradual erosion of the defense corps has combined to leave Philadelphia on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture. (Photo: Getty Images)

Bryzgalov was supposed to be the franchise goaltender the Flyers had spent the last quarter-century searching for, while offensively the hope was a few players would be able to step into the scoring void left by the two departing all-stars.

The 2011-12 season saw things go backward for the Flyers. They finished as the second-highest scoring team in the League, carried by their top line of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, along with major contributions from depth players like Wayne Simmonds, Maxime Talbot and Sean Couturier. Bryzgalov, expected to play at the same high level he had displayed with the Phoenix Coyotes, struggled for most of the season, and the Flyers were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The common belief was that in 2012-13, Bryzgalov would shake off his first-season troubles and return to being a top-tier netminder, while the Flyers' offense would continue to sizzle. A number of prognosticators considered the Flyers contenders for the Atlantic Division title and a top-four playoff seed in the East.

However, they enter their game Tuesday against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) 13th in the Eastern Conference, five points out of a playoff spot, and their 16 regulation losses are tied for the second-most in the League.

Comparing Penguins' streak to Blackhawks' run

Monday, 03.25.2013 / 2:35 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

When the Chicago Blackhawks ripped off 24 games without a regulation loss to start the season, it included an 11-game winning streak. The Blackhawks fell six short of the NHL record set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992-93.

Nearly three weeks after that streak came to a close, the modern-day Penguins are taking an even stronger run at the 17-game mark set by their predecessors.

Trailing 1-0 entering the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night, Sidney Crosby tied the game with a power-play goal and Tyler Kennedy won it in overtime to give the Penguins their 12th win in a row. The Penguins now trail the Blackhawks by just one point in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, although Chicago has played three fewer games.

Former Dallas teammates sad to see Morrow depart

Monday, 03.25.2013 / 2:15 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

DALLAS -- On the one hand, Brenden Morrow's now-former Dallas Stars teammates weren't surprised to hear he had been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.

That's because they had been hearing rumors of Morrow being dealt for several weeks now, but now that he is officially a Penguin, several Stars took time after Monday's morning skate to reflect on their former captain.

"It's hard to see," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "He's a very good teammate, good friend. He was our captain. He led by example. It's tough to see a guy like that go, a character guy like that. It's part of the business and we all know it can happen to anybody."

With the departure of Morrow, who with 13 seasons under his belt had been Dallas' longest-tenured player, defenseman Trevor Daley, who has been with the Stars since 2003, now holds that distinction.

"Definitely going into a good situation. I got a chance to talk to James Neal yesterday, too, and they're ecstatic to have him [in Pittsburgh]," Daley said. "Obviously, on the other side it's disappointing to see another guy gone. But at the end of the day, it is a business."

Three issues determined Boucher's fate in 2012-13

Sunday, 03.24.2013 / 12:11 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

It was less than two years ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning were one bounce of the puck from advancing to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

Under the leadership of first-year coach Guy Boucher and his innovative 1-3-1 forechecking scheme, the Lightning totaled 103 points and pushed the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. With rising superstar Steven Stamkos, as well as top-end veterans like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, the Lightning were viewed as a team on the rise with an incredibly bright future.

Less than two years later, the Lightning on Sunday fired Boucher with the team languishing in 14th place in the Eastern Conference heading into its game Sunday night at the Winnipeg Jets.

How did things go so wrong so fast for the Lightning? There are a few reasons:

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Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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