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NHL Insider

Muller already seeing progress out of Hurricanes

Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Kurt Dusterberg - Correspondent

Watching Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller conduct a late-March practice, you would never know his team was a facing an early offseason. He is in full voice, explaining the finer points of gaining the offensive blue line and recognizing when forwards should drive the net.

"There is no hesitation in our game," he yells to the players.

That instruction summed up the second half of the season for the Hurricanes, who improved their puck pursuit and offensive intensity enough to be competitive nearly every night.

Toews feeling good, but won't target return date yet

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 4:35 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

Jonathan Toews
Center - CHI
GOALS: 29 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 57
SOG: 185 | +/-: 17

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews went through another Chicago Blackhawks practice on Tuesday and said he felt good afterward.

The team's captain and top-line center, who has missed 20 straight games with an upper-body injury that's widely believed to be concussion-related, has now skated hard on his own or practiced for two weeks straight.

Still, Toews isn't ready to proclaim himself ready to play in games just yet.

"I hope so," he said of potentially playing on Thursday in Minnesota. "I think even when I'm ready to start playing again, there’s still going to be some days where you’re going to have to progress toward feeling like myself again. I haven’t made that decision for Thursday yet. I’ve have another full day before that. I’ll practice with the guys and we’ll see how that goes, and come Thursday we’ll make a decision."

Ex-Rangers greats see Cup potential in current group

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 4:16 PM / NHL Insider

David Kalan - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- With a sixth postseason appearance in the last seven seasons sewn up, it's starting to feel like seeing the Rangers in the playoffs is becoming an annual rite of spring once again.

There are few people who know what that feels like better than Mark Messier.

"Playoff time in New York is like no other," he said.

If there is anyone who understands the energy and excitement that can take hold of New York when the Rangers have a legitimate chance to bring home the Stanley Cup, it's the man whose captaincy was instrumental in giving the Rangers their first championship in half a century 18 years ago.

On Tuesday, Messier, 1994 Cup-winner Adam Graves and Rangers legend Rod Gilbert were all on hand at the unveiling of a new Rangers-themed subway train being put into service in honor of the upcoming 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it was clear all three could sense the tangible excitement surrounding New York ahead of the postseason.

Top individual surprises, disappointments in 2011-12

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 3:34 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer


The 2011-12 season has been full of surprises and disappointments. While some pundits liked the St. Louis Blues as a young team that could take a step forward this season, no one expected them to contend for the Presidents' Trophy.

The Ottawa Senators were expected to rebuild and be eligible to claim the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery, but instead they will be in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their opponents in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, the Anaheim Ducks, were expected to be in the mix for the Pacific Division title, but a disastrous start to the season will keep them out of the postseason.

Other teams like the San Jose Sharks and the Washington Capitals were expected to be among the League's elite, but are now spending the final days of the season trying to save a tumultuous campaign.

Crosby: Flyers bring out worst in Penguins

Monday, 04.02.2012 / 5:29 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- As they wind down their 100 point-plus seasons, the Flyers and Penguins already have established themselves as two of the NHL's most dominant teams. But while they share a state and the same passionate desire to raise the Stanley Cup, they don't have much else in common.
Only a couple of weeks after the Penguins were rolling during an 11-game winning streak that created plenty of Pittsburgh-is-the-Cup-favorite buzz, the Flyers have twice rallied from two goals down to beat them. 

Goal, fight vs. Pens caps Simmonds' wild weekend

Monday, 04.02.2012 / 5:25 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Monday was just another interesting day for Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

Named NHL First Star of the Week, it capped three-day period that saw him make headlines for all sorts of different reasons.

On Sunday, he scored the go-ahead goal early in the third that put the Flyers ahead to stay in their 6-4 win in Pittsburgh, and then was in the middle of the late-game melee against the Penguins that featured 52 penalty minutes assessed and two coaches ejected from the game.

And that came after he scored a goal Saturday -- off his face.

"Obviously I think that's the most painful goal that I'll ever score in my NHL career," said Simmonds. "I don't hope to do that again, but it was worth it."

Whitney takes long and winding road to 1,000 points

Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 7:53 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As a connoisseur of fine wine, Ray Whitney has a distinct appreciation for things that get better with age.  How appropriate that his long, winding, NHL career has turned out to be a vintage collector's item as well.

Ray Whitney
Left Wing - PHX
GOALS: 24 | ASST: 51 | PTS: 75
SOG: 182 | +/-: 25
One month shy of turning 40, when most hockey careers have already withered on the vine, Whitney is savoring the bouquet of one of his best NHL seasons. The capper came Saturday when the Phoenix Coyotes' forward set up linemate Radim Vrbata for a second-period goal in a 4-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks, becoming the 79th player in League history to reach 1,000 points.

Many of the players on that list played their entire career with one team – or at least have a particular franchise with which they are quickly associated. Not Whitney. The Coyotes are his seventh NHL team -- part of an odyssey that has seen him released, bought out, placed on waivers and traded in order to keep or acquire players who could only dream of matching his achievements.

"It hasn't been overly easy, I've had to earn what I've done," said Whitney, who over the summer, aware he needed 74 points to reach 1,000 – which would be one of his best seasons ever, boldly said he expected to get there. "There's been a couple of times where it didn't look like it was going to go on any further so this is something I'm very proud of."

In likely playoff preview, Pens, Flyers get heated

Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 6:09 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and Penguins assistant Tony Granato stood only a few feet apart atop the dasher boards, nasty words flying between them, as three separate skirmishes broke out on the ice.
Sidney Crosby didn't like being cross-checked in the back by Brayden Schenn during a stoppage in play. Laviolette didn't like how Penguins coach Dan Bylsma responded by sending out some of his hardest hitters, resulting in a big hit on diminutive Flyers forward Danny Briere during a game already decided.
The Flyers and Penguins traded goals, a few swings and a lot of colorful language Sunday during a 6-4 victory by Philadelphia that drew the Flyers within a point of Pittsburgh as the in-state rivals chase home-ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The two are almost certain to face each other in the opening round -- and the teams could decide that home-ice edge when they meet in a season-ending rematch Saturday at Consol Energy Center.

Looking at New York and Boston's season series

Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 5:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins have been two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference throughout the season and have played three exciting games that have shown how evenly matched they are.

The tightness of the matchups might not be evident based on the season series -- the Rangers are 3-0-0 and will go for the sweep Sunday night (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) at Madison Square Garden -- but all three games have been close and could have gone either way.

A lot is riding on Sunday's game: the Bruins can wrap up the Northeast Division and the No. 2 spot in the East with a victory while the Rangers can clinch the top spot in the East with a single point following Pittsburgh's loss to Philadelphia Sunday afternoon.

Here's a capsule look at the season series to date:

Jan. 21 at Boston | Rangers 3, Bruins 2, OT |

Entering the contest, the Rangers held a one-point advantage on the Bruins for first in the East, but many still considered the defending champions the class of the conference. The Rangers proved they were for real, playing even with the Bruins through regulation and getting a Marian Gaborik goal in overtime for the victory.

Richards-Gaborik pairing proving to be worth the wait

Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 5:08 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

When assist machine Brad Richards signed his mega-deal with the New York Rangers this past summer, he was supposed to form a beautiful partnership with sniper Marian Gaborik.

Richards would carry the puck into the offensive zone and use his next-level vision and passing ability to find Gaborik, who would score so many goals that official scorers throughout the NHL would be driven into early retirement due to the stress from the increased workload.

Instead, Gaborik and Richards were separated by coach John Tortorella after eight games in which Richards had a goal and four assists, Gaborik had four goals and one assist and the Rangers were 3-3-2. The production wasn't exactly lacking, but the chemistry wasn't there in game Nos. 6-8 as the pair combined for one assist in those three games, two of which were losses.

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[Stamkos] is a great teammate and a great leader, that's why he's got the 'C'. He brings that tremendous work ethic to the rink and he's one of the top players in the game. I know if I put the passes where they are supposed to be, there's a very good chance he's going to put it in the back of the net.

— Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin on linemate Steven Samkos
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