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NHL Insider

Unzipping the Jackets, Part I

Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 2:47 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com's Corey Masisak spent a week in Columbus with the Blue Jackets, reporting the inside story on a team with high expectations at the start of the 2011-12 regular season. Here is the first installment of his two-part report:

COLUMBUS -- Derick Brassard looked skyward, and the collective groan of fans -- the sound of anticipated elation quickly muted by frustration -- filled Nationwide Arena.
 
It was a familiar sound, a manifestation of feelings felt far too often here this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets, a franchise that entered 2011-12 desperate for success and fresh off a "this-is-finally-going-to-be-our-year" summer, were trailing the Nashville Predators by two goals on a recent Saturday when Brassard had one of the team’s best chances of the night to solve goaltender Pekka Rinne.
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Habs' Subban still going through maturation process

Tuesday, 01.24.2012 / 11:56 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

BROSSARD, Que. – P.K. Subban has the visibility of a 10-year veteran, not the 22-year-old that he is.

Subban has already found himself in so many headlines and the topic of conversation on so many talk shows, it is easy to forget the defenseman is only in his second full season with the Montreal Canadiens.

Like most young players, Subban continues to go through some growing pains – a process that is further in the spotlight because the Canadiens are struggling as a team, as well. 
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Lightning hit hard by injury bug

Monday, 01.23.2012 / 7:17 PM / NHL Insider

Lonnie Herman - NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA, Fla. -- At their practice facility on Monday, the Tampa Bay Lightning's locker room was festooned with red jerseys, which indicate "no contact" for that particular player.

A new red jersey was hung in Ryan Malone's stall, as he and Dana Tyrell joined the roster of walking wounded that now numbers nine players.

Tuesday night, the Lightning will face the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and although Tampa Bay is riding a three-game winning streak, the home ice advantage is of little interest to coach Guy Boucher.
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Blues continue to focus on big picture

Sunday, 01.22.2012 / 4:46 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- They woke up Tuesday morning sitting atop the NHL perch, but when the St. Louis Blues continue their season-long trek Monday night with a huge road tilt in Detroit against the team that's ahead of them today, it's the big picture that they'll continue to focus on.

And in order to do that, it's looking forward to the next game.

"It's so tight at the top right now," said winger T.J. Oshie, whose lone goal in a 1-0 win over Dallas enabled the Blues to catch Chicago and the New York Rangers momentarily for most points in the league with 60. "I think our biggest focus should be just getting ready for our next game, keep getting better each night and focusing on the little things that maybe we didn't do well (last Monday) night and sharpen them up."
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Lightning scrambling to save season

Sunday, 01.22.2012 / 4:26 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They are still a lap behind the Eastern Conference playoff race. They lost forward Ryan Malone Saturday, putting nine regulars on their injured list and half of their AHL team in Tampa uniforms. And the magic that took them on a ride during last year's Stanley Cup playoffs has been conspicuous by its absence.
 
But Tampa Bay hasn't given up on the notion that Lightning can still strike twice.
 
On the heels of a seven-game winless streak and in danger of having their season end before the All-Star Break, the Lightning, or what's left of them, have regrouped and revived hope. They backed up a huge home win over Boston their first back-to-back road wins of the season – Friday's 2-1 squeaker over Dallas and a 4-3 win Saturday in Phoenix, where an exhausted team took a 4-1 lead to the third period and limped across the finish line.
 
"We're so short-staffed it's not even funny, then we lost Malone right at the beginning and it's looking grim," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. "(In Dallas) I played our top guys a lot and we needed to play them a lot again and they responded. Let's not kid ourselves, when you're playing back-to—back you need your goalie to be great because it's just an unfair fight."
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Durable Fleury proving an iron man for Pens

Sunday, 01.22.2012 / 12:01 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH — He plays in the Steel City, but goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is becoming the Pittsburgh Penguins' iron man.
 
Fleury will start Sunday afternoon when the Penguins meet the Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center in the continuation of one of the Eastern Conference's best rivalries – even though the teams are in different divisions.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 24-12-2
GAA: 2.24 | SVP: 0.914
Fleury (24-12-2) will be playing in his 21st consecutive game as the Penguins try to extend their winning streak to a season-high six games. He has started each game in a streak that followed a six-game losing streak, and has allowed two goals or fewer in eight of his last 13 starts.

Backup Brent Johnson, who has only two wins, was pulled during his last starts, Dec. 16 and Jan. 10, with both games against Ottawa. Fleury last sat out a full game Dec. 3, when Johnson earned a 3-2 victory over Carolina.
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Once fading, Penguins revived as rival Capitals arrive

Saturday, 01.21.2012 / 10:46 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Pittsburgh Penguins are proof of just how much can change in the NHL over a span of 10 days.

The last time they played the Washington Capitals, the Penguins were victimized only once, but it was enough for a 1-0 loss that dropped them out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference this late in the season for the first time since Dan Bylsma took over as coach.

It was Pittsburgh's sixth straight loss.

"We did a lot of good things, but still it's not enough to get the win," Penguins forward James Neal said after that loss at Verizon Center on Jan. 11. "We just need to get a win, that's bottom line.”

Well, when the Penguins and Capitals meet Sunday in Pittsburgh for the NHL on NBC Game of the Week (12:30 p.m. ET), the home team will put a five-game winning streak on the line.

Pittsburgh has jumped back into the race and currently sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 56 points. Washington, which leapt into the top eight with that 1-0 win against the Penguins on Jan. 11, are now leading the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference despite their second 3-0 loss in the last three games Friday night.
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Panthers' Versteeg proud to finally see Cup banner

Friday, 01.20.2012 / 5:16 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

"I didn't get to see the banner raised last year, and it's the first time I get to see the banner -- so it was a pretty neat experience just seeing what you accomplished with a team." -- Kris Versteeg

CHICAGO -- It was the one thing Kris Versteeg had been looking forward to doing ever since he noticed his Florida Panthers were making a trip here this season.

The former Chicago Blackhawks forward always likes seeing his old buddies, of course, but the one thing he was most fired up about was looking into the rafters of the United Center and seeing the 2010 Stanley Cup banner hanging there.

It's a permanent reminder of what that team accomplished in bringing this city its first Cup title in 49 years, with Versteeg playing an understated, yet important role.
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Current streak has Detroit atop NHL heap -- for now

Friday, 01.20.2012 / 9:46 AM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

"We know that no matter what we do, (the other Central Division teams are) going to keep winning. We just have to find a way to get two points each night. It's just as simple as that." -- Niklas Kronwall

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Detroit coach Mike Babcock is a master at keeping his team motivated through a long, tough regular season.

This year, however, Babcock is getting a lot of help keeping his Red Wings focused on the task at hand.
 
The assistance is coming from Chicago. And St. Louis. And even Nashville.  All the Red Wings have to do is look at the bunched Central Division standings to know that a slip up here or there can be costly.

Detroit won its fifth straight game Thursday -- a 3-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes secured by Todd Bertuzzi's spin-o-rama, backhand flip in the shootout. The Red Wings are now 4-0 in shootouts and have secured four of its past five wins after regulation.
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Bruins, Rangers looking ahead to weekend showdown

Thursday, 01.19.2012 / 11:11 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

It's taken a combined 99 games, but the two best teams in the Eastern Conference will finally meet Saturday afternoon.

The New York Rangers, first in the East with 62 points in 45 games, will pay a visit to Boston to take on the defending Stanley Cup-champion Bruins, who have 61 points in 44 games.

The game (1 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) will mark the first of four meetings between the Original Six clubs, both of which have hovered near the top of the NHL standings all season.
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Quote of the Day

It's not always going to be pretty, especially against a great goalie [Lundqvist] like that. My goals are never how you draw them up. It's just a matter of grinding it out and trying to create havoc in front and good things happen.

— Capitals forward Jay Beagle on scoring in their Game 3 victory against the Rangers on Monday