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NHL Insider

Opening week's biggest surprises, disappointments

Friday, 01.25.2013 / 3:28 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

The 2012-13 season is officially seven days old, and the first week has brought a flurry of highs and lows for teams around the NHL.

Shortened training camps and a compressed schedule have already led to high-scoring affairs and a heightened sense of urgency for teams off to slow starts. Several players and teams have had an unexpected start to the campaign, so let's take a look at the biggest surprises and disappointments of the first seven days.

Obviously, sample size is an issue and patience should be expected, but that's not any fun.

Crosby has fond memories of playing in Winnipeg

Friday, 01.25.2013 / 3:21 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- Sidney Crosby departed Winnipeg eight years ago as a 17-year-old hockey prodigy.

Crosby made his return to Winnipeg on Thursday as a 25-year-old with a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, and 224 goals so far as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

When he was last in Winnipeg in December 2004, he participated in Canada's preparations for the 2005 World Junior Championship that was held in nearby Grand Forks, N.D. Crosby and his teammates also spent time in the tiny hamlet of Gimli, located an hour north of Winnipeg.

Avalanche prepare to move on without Downie

Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 3:34 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche anticipated there could be some injuries because of the short training camp that followed the lockout, but how do you prepare for the season-ending knee injury sustained by gritty forward Steve Downie in just the second game? He is a unique player and can't be readily replaced.

The 5-foot-11, 191-pound left wing suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Tuesday night in the Avalanche's 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings. He will undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the season.

"I just think we have to, as a group, we just have to try and make up for Downie's loss as a group, not by one individual -- whether it's offensively, whether it's defensively, because those are a couple of elements he brings to our team," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said after the morning skate Thursday at the Pepsi Center.

"He certainly brings a physical aspect to the game, so we need everybody picking it up a little bit, to pick up the slack. Again, do it by committee. We've dealt with injuries in the past, so this is nothing different. We'll deal with it."

Talented young RFA trio remains unsigned

Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:34 PM / NHL Insider

The 2012-13 NHL season is nearly a week old, and while injuries start to shape the immediate future for some clubs, a trio of franchises are still short a core player because of restricted free agency.

Jamie Benn, P.K. Subban and Ryan O'Reilly remain unsigned, and fans of the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche are left to ponder what their team could be but won't be until the burgeoning stars sign a contract.

O'Reilly was playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League but has left the club to return to the United States. The KHL team released a statement saying O'Reilly left because of a minor injury and because his agent is negotiating with the Avalanche, but TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Thursday there has been no progress made between the two sides.

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reported the Avalanche have offered two contracts to O'Reilly -- one for five years and $17 million and the other for two years and $7 million. O'Reilly has earned a reputation as one of the top two-way centers in the League despite not turning 21 years old until next month, and he led Colorado with 55 points (18 goals) last season.

Rangers' Kreider going through growing pains

Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 12:22 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Nine-plus months ago, Rangers rookie Chris Kreider made his NHL debut in a playoff game against Ottawa just nine days removed from winning the NCAA championship with Boston College. He wound up scoring five goals, including two game-winners, in 18 games to help the Rangers get to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The high was incredible. The action was intoxicating.

It couldn't last.

Kreider, a Big Apple superstar last spring, is now just like every other rookie in the NHL -- trying to do all he can to keep his spot in the lineup.

He's struggling.

After starting Wednesday's game on the second line with Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan, Kreider was demoted to fourth-line duty -- and Rangers coach John Tortorella is not ready to use a four-line rotation, meaning Kreider barely played in the second half of the game.

Gaborik-Richards-Nash line flourishes for Rangers

Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 12:04 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist's quick response summed up the night for the New York Rangers.

"Game changer," Lundqvist told after New York's 4-3 overtime win against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden.

There is really no other way to describe the Rangers' new top line of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash.

When that line clicks, as it did in its debut Wednesday night, the Rangers can be remarkably dangerous. The Bruins are the first team to find that out the hard way.

Schneider to be back in net for Canucks vs. Flames

Tuesday, 01.22.2013 / 5:47 PM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Cory Schneider will be back in goal for the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday for the same reason he was there at the end of last season.

Schneider confirmed he would start when the Canucks play host to the Calgary Flames after getting pulled from his first regular-season game as the team's No. 1 goalie Saturday and watching his predecessor, Roberto Luongo, start the next night.

"Same approach I had last year," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I'm picking the goalie I feel gives us the best chance to win."

When Vigneault made the same decision three games into the playoffs last season, most assumed it meant the end of Luongo's time in Vancouver.

That included Luongo himself. Instead, he found himself back in goal earlier than expected in a season-opening 7-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, and back in for a scheduled start in what turned into a 3-2 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.

Some argued Schneider, who signed a three-year, $12-million contract extension in the summer to be the new No.1 goaltender, should have been given a chance to go right back in a day after being pulled. It was a luxury afforded Luongo many times during his six seasons as the Canucks' unquestioned No. 1.

Huberdeau's first game in Montreal; Kovalev's last?

Tuesday, 01.22.2013 / 3:53 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- One will be living out a childhood dream, playing 45 minutes from his hometown against the team he cheered for as a kid, while the other may be playing his final game in front of fans who grew to love him in his five years playing for the Montreal Canadiens.

Florida Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau and veteran linemate Alex Kovalev will be coming from opposite ends of the experience spectrum, but will be experiencing similar emotions when they step on Bell Centre ice to face the Canadiens on Tuesday night.

"He's more than twice my age," said Huberdeau, a 19-year-old native of nearby St-Jerome who was the No. 3 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. "It's funny to think he was playing in the NHL before I was even born."

Kovalev, who turns 40 on Feb. 24, wouldn't be put off in the slightest by his young linemate's comments, because he finds it just as funny.

"I was laughing the other day with my sons and my wife that I'm playing with a kid who wasn't born when I won the Cup," Kovalev said.

Golden oldies the soundtrack to opening weekend

Monday, 01.21.2013 / 1:00 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

One look around the NHL and it seems like every team has a few 25-and-under star players, from Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay to Patrick Kane in Chicago, from Taylor Hall in Edmonton to John Tavares with the New York Islanders.

But on opening weekend of the 2012-13 season many of those youngsters took a backseat to the 35-and-over crowd, who spent the first few games of the season showing how timeless the classics can be.

Anaheim's Teemu Selanne, the oldest player in the League at 42, had two goals and two assists as the Ducks opened the season with a 7-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks. At 42 years and 200 days, Selanne also became the oldest NHL player with four points in a game since Gordie Howe (42 years, 326 days) had four in 1971.

Wild goalie Harding makes inspirational season debut

Monday, 01.21.2013 / 10:36 AM / NHL Insider

Josh Harding made 24 saves as the Minnesota Wild won their second straight to start the season with a 1-0 victory against the Dallas Stars on Sunday night.

The 28-year-old’s seventh career shutout also came in his first start since he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November.

"It's been a tough couple months here," Harding said to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "This made it all worth it. I can't thank the team enough for having my back."

Harding, who signed a three-year, $5.7 million contract during the summer to remain with the only team for which he’s played, called Sunday night's game a "tryout." Harding has been a member of the Wild organization for nearly 11 years, which made him comfortable disclosing the illness to teammates and management.

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