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NHL Insider

Five things to watch when Capitals host Penguins

Wednesday, 02.25.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Six points separate the top four spots in the Metropolitan Division. Two of them are occupied by teams involved in this week's edition of Wednesday Night Rivalry.

The Washington Capitals, who have won seven of their past 10 games, will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA, SN1). The Penguins (34-17-9) currently reside in third place in the Metropolitan, one point ahead of Washington (33-18-10).

Pittsburgh has managed to stay in the division race despite a 7-11-4 record against division opponents; Washington is 13-5-4.

"They're a really good team," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "They are solid defensively. You have to find a way to overcome that and score goals and get big wins. We haven't done a good enough job in our division."

The Capitals had won four in a row before a 3-2 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Washington hasn't gone consecutive games without a point in over a month.

"I think there's a little bit of a rivalry starting to develop again between the Penguins and the Caps," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Both teams will be amped up. It should be a good game."

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Gaudreau homecoming king on Flames road trip

Wednesday, 02.25.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- The "Johnny Hockey" show has come east for what is essentially an extended roots tour for the Calgary Flames rookie.

Typically a homecoming for an NHL player is a quick visit, one night and two days, two nights if he's lucky, just enough time to see some friends, catch up with his family and go on his way.

Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau gets 11 days and nights.

"I've been waiting for it all season," Gaudreau said Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, where the Flames lost 1-0 to the New York Rangers in the first of a seven-game road trip.

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Islanders' Leddy has grown into cornerstone player

Tuesday, 02.24.2015 / 11:14 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Nick Leddy has been everything the New York Islanders could have hoped for when they acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks before the start of the season. On Tuesday they made sure he'll be around for a while.

The Islanders announced Leddy has agreed to a seven-year contract that will keep the soon-to-be 24-year-old defenseman with them throughout the prime of his career. No financial terms were disclosed, but Leddy's agent, Neil Sheehy, said the deal is worth $38.5 million for an average annual value of $5.5 million.

Leddy could have become a restricted free agent this summer. Instead he'll be with the Islanders through the 2021-22 season.

He said that while thoughts about whether he wanted to commit to the Islanders began almost as soon as he arrived, he's tried to keep his focus on the ice.

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Hurricanes' Ward reflective heading into 500th game

Tuesday, 02.24.2015 / 1:54 PM / NHL Insider

Kurt Dusterberg - NHL.com Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward will play his 500th NHL game Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. He doesn't want to make a big deal out of it, but it's clear this is a time for reflection.

"I think about all the people who helped me get to this point in my career, beginning with my parents who gave me the chance to play the game I love," Ward said. "I'm thankful for all the coaches and teammates I've been a part of until now."

Ward's career arc has been bittersweet. As a rookie, he was launched into stardom when he took over as the starting goaltender in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping Carolina win the Stanley Cup and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. He smiles when reminded he isn't the first professional athlete to enjoy success early only to be left searching for that pinnacle experience as the years roll on.

"You immediately think, 'Oh, I will probably get (to the playoffs) again.' You soon realize how difficult it is to get back there," Ward said. "I'm now in my 10th year in the League, and chances are it will be 2-for-10 (reaching the playoffs). I definitely would appreciate it a lot more, knowing how difficult it is to get back into that situation."

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Heavy workload, positive results for Hurricanes' Faulk

Tuesday, 02.24.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Kurt Dusterberg - NHL.com Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk has made a habit of outpacing expectations. It started his freshman year at University of Minnesota-Duluth.

"He was very good as a freshman, pretty dominant for an 18-year-old kid," Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said. "He had the physical tools, he could skate, he had a good shot. By Christmas, I thought we might not keep him for more than a year just based on how he played."

Sandelin was right. Faulk helped Minnesota-Duluth win the 2011 NCAA Championship, then moved on to the NHL, where he was named to the NHL's All-Rookie Team in 2012. He was a U.S. Olympian in 2014 and NHL All-Star in January. It's a pretty solid hockey resume for a 22-year-old, but Faulk would prefer to take age out of the equation.
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Quenneville: Blackhawks not hitting panic button yet

Monday, 02.23.2015 / 4:18 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- They've lost three straight games and five of the first seven during an eight-game homestand, but the Chicago Blackhawks haven't hit the proverbial panic button.

Asked after practice on Monday if the Blackhawks had started to panic a little with 22 games left, coach Joel Quenneville quipped, "No, but the 'Get Attention' button is where I'm at."

His answer was met with a tongue-in-cheek follow up question, and it provided a good assessment of Quenneville's outlook at the moment.

"Do you have one of those?" a reporter said.

"Absolutely," Quenneville replied, jabbing his index finger in front of him. "I got it pushed."

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Capitals' top line has had revolving cast at right wing

Monday, 02.23.2015 / 9:20 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Vingan - NHL.com Correspondent

PHILADELPHIA -- During the Washington Capitals pre-game line rushes against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, Andre Burakovsky skated with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, completing the Capitals first line.

Coach Barry Trotz ultimately scratched Burakovsky after deciding Washington was in need of a jump-start, inserting Jay Beagle into the starting lineup instead. Beagle's stint on the line was short-lived; Marcus Johansson replaced him after two shifts and a holding penalty, remaining there for the rest of Washington’s 3-2 loss.

"I think we weren't sharp at all," said Backstrom, who was held without a point after having seven in his previous four games. "It doesn't matter who plays with us, to be honest with you."

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After Sochi, Price has become one of League's best

Monday, 02.23.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

A year ago this week, the 2014 Sochi Olympics entered the knockout round. To celebrate, NHL.com looks at three players who used one of hockey's biggest stages to grab the spotlight and parlay their celebrity into the 2014-15 NHL season.

Today, we look at Canada goalie Carey Price, who led his team to its second straight gold medal.

When Carey Price left for the 2014 Sochi Olympics it was unclear whether he or the incumbent, Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers, would be the starting goaltender for Canada.

It was the one position that most of the hockey world thought was a potential weakness for the powerhouse team from Canada.

When Price returned to the Montreal Canadiens a few weeks later he did so with a gold medal hanging around his neck, having been named the top goaltender of the Olympic tournament after a 3-0 shutout against Sweden in the gold-medal game, which was played one year ago Monday.

Price stopped 103 of 106 shots in five starts in Sochi and 70 of 71 shots in three elimination games, making the pretournament chatter about Canada’s goaltending seem rather silly.

"I was pretty confident in my abilities going into the tournament," Price said. "I knew the group of players I was playing behind, I knew it was going to be a really good opportunity to win. That was the mentality that I had, and all I had to do was just do my part. Fortunately for me things went well, the team played really well in front of me, and everything was done exactly as planned."

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Flyers' Simmonds now scoring threat in all situations

Sunday, 02.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The past three seasons have seen Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds emerge as one of the biggest power-play threats in the NHL.

Entering the Flyers game Sunday against the Washington Capitals (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), he's tied for third in the League with 12 power-play goals; his 33 goals on the man-advantage since the start of the 2012-13 season are third, behind Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (57) and Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks (37).

For long stretches, however, the power play has been the chief place Simmonds had been productive; of his 14 goals in a 49-game stretch between Oct. 14 and Feb. 5, five came at even strength.

In his past six games, however, he has four goals, with three of them coming at 5-on-5 play.

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Blackhawks' Hossa remains elite two-way talent

Sunday, 02.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Like most players, Marian Hossa was powerless to stop what happened late in the first period of a game at United Center this past Wednesday.

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk, a relentless puck hound, used a jabbing stick lift to rip the puck from the Chicago Blackhawks forward in the defensive zone. Datsyuk quickly headed the other way, looking for the kind of play he's turned into key goals numerous times in his career.

Hossa had other ideas, and unlike most players, he was able to recover.

Just as he did during practices with the Red Wings in 2007-08, Hossa chased Datsyuk. He closed the gap through the neutral zone and caught the speedy Russian at the Chicago blue line. Hossa, a 36-year old right wing, returned the favor with a strip of his own inside the left circle, sending the puck the other way with a stretch pass.

The crowd roared. Hossa felt a sense of relief and accomplishment.

"He's one of the best," he said of Datsyuk, a three-time winner of the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward. "I had the chance to play with [him] in Detroit and we'd play keep-aways after practices, because he's one of the best in the League. I learned from him quite a bit."

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Quote of the Day

I definitely think going back down helped me, I had a lot of confidence down there, I played a lot of minutes and I think that helped me a lot. With the 37 games up here, that gave me experience as well. I know what it takes to play in the NHL and now it's time for me to show that I'm capable of being a full-time NHL player.

— Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl on finishing the 2014-15 season in juniors after playing 37 games with Edmonton to begin the season