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NHL Insider

Yakupov can't wait to start NHL career with Oilers

Thursday, 08.16.2012 / 4:23 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Nail Yakupov arrived in Edmonton this week ready to prepare for the start of his first professional season. (Photo: Getty Images)

NHL training camps aren't scheduled to open for another month, but Nail Yakupov isn't ready to wait that long. Yakupov, the first pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, arrived in Edmonton this week ready to prepare for the start of his first professional season.

"I started working out with the guys," he told reporters Thursday. "Just seeing my place and just be here. There's nothing to do in Russia. Just have to start work and get ready for camp."

Yakupov had 31 goals and 38 assists in 42 games last season with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. He also helped Russia win the silver medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship, leading to the Oilers selecting him with the first pick in June.

He got an early start to his season by participating in the Canada-Russia Challenge, which ended earlier this week after two games in Moscow and two games in Halifax, N.S. The games were a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the famed 1972 Summit Series, as well as a tribute to Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team that was wiped out in a plane crash last year.

A look at who's on the hot seat in the West

Thursday, 08.16.2012 / 12:39 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

With summer quickly moving toward fall and teams looking toward the new season, here's a look at a player from each of the 15 teams in the Western Conference who'll be under pressure to perform as soon as the puck drops:

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim -- After averaging more than a point a game for four consecutive seasons, Getzlaf plummeted to 11 goals and 57 points in 82 games in 2011-12 -- and, not coincidentally, the Ducks failed to make the playoffs. Getzlaf, whose struggles also affected linemate Corey Perry, has to have a major bounce-back season if the Ducks are to have any hopes of returning to the top eight in the West -- and if he hopes to earn a new contract.

Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary -- Eight years after he led the Flames within one victory of the Stanley Cup, Kiprusoff is still the most important player on a Calgary team that hasn't contended for a title since 2004 and has missed the playoffs three years running. Kiprusoff is coming off an excellent season (35-22-11, 2.35 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) and has 35 or more wins in seven straight seasons. But he'll have to be even better if the Flames are to get off the treadmill of just missing the playoffs.

A look at who's on the hot seat in the East

Wednesday, 08.15.2012 / 1:55 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Summer continues to melt like a Popsicle on a sidewalk. Teams are less than a month away from training camps. It's almost time for another NHL season, and the pressure already is starting to build for some players who know they'll have to be big-time producers for their teams to improve or contend.

Here's a look at a player from each of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference who will be under pressure to perform as soon as the puck drops:

Tuukka Rask, Boston -- With Tim Thomas taking a year off, the No. 1 goaltending job in Boston belongs to Rask, who is coming off a groin injury in March that brought his season to an early conclusion. Rask, who signed a one-year deal this summer, provided a safety net behind Thomas, but he's flying solo now and will be expected to carry the load in goal for a team that feels it's more than capable of regaining the Stanley Cup it failed to retain last spring.

Crosby not only star hoping to rebound from injury

Thursday, 08.09.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Can Sidney Crosby stay healthy for a full season? That's the question that again hovers over the Pittsburgh Penguins as they prepare for 2012-13.

While the Pens hope Crosby can stay healthy, there are other notable players coming off injury-plagued campaigns that are being counted on heavily to rebound. (Photo: Getty Images)

Pittsburgh's captain played only 22 regular-season games in 2011-12, missing the other 60 as he dealt with concussion-related issues. That came on the heels of missing the second half of 2010-11 and all of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the same reason.

The good news for the Penguins is that Crosby was his usual self when he returned for good on March 15 -- he showed no ill effects and put up 37 regular-season points, as well as eight in Pittsburgh's six playoff contests. The bad news is he hasn't played a full season since 2009-10, and has played only those 22 games since going down with a concussion on Jan. 5, 2011.

Crosby isn't the only key player who's working to come back from an injury that put a hole in his 2011-12 season or ended it early. Here are seven other players whose return is critical to their teams' success.

Saluting Crosby at 25: Facts and figures

Tuesday, 08.07.2012 / 5:14 PM / NHL Insider

Darryl Haberman - Director, Production

It's hard to believe, but Sidney Crosby turns 25 today.

Crosby was the first player picked in the 2005 NHL Draft -- the Pittsburgh Penguins won the right to draft him after a lottery that left the Anaheim Ducks a disappointed second.

In the seven seasons since he was chosen, Crosby has been everything the Penguins could have wanted, and then some. He has led the League in goals and points, won a Hart Trophy as regular-season MVP, and led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.

Flyers have several options in patching up blue line

Tuesday, 08.07.2012 / 2:15 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

The Philadelphia Flyers haven't played a game since May, yet they've suffered more catastrophic losses to their blue line during the summer than most teams face throughout a season.

Matt Carle signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent. The news on Chris Pronger's concussion hasn't been positive and he can't be counted on this season. Now Andrej Meszaros is out indefinitely -- perhaps the entire regular season -- after surgery to repair a torn Achilles' tendon Tuesday.

That doesn't even include the failed attempt to sign Shea Weber, who put his name to a lucrative offer sheet only to see it matched by the Nashville Predators.

Emrick adds to ties between hockey, water polo

Saturday, 08.04.2012 / 7:00 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

During the dog days of the summer sports season, hockey fans have tried to find something that can replicate the game they love. Fortunately, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London have been a welcome distraction until NHL training camps open in September.

But it hasn't just been marquee sports basketball and track and field that have drawn the attention of hockey fans. NHL players and fans alike have rallied around water polo, a sport with more than its share of similarities to hockey.

"[They both] have nets and power plays and goaltenders and penalty shots. Also, the resilience the [water polo] players have is very comparable to hockey," said Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike "Doc" Emrick, who has called hockey play-by-play for almost 40 years and is doing the same for NBC's Olympic water polo coverage. "There is a feeling, too, that part of the character is similar to hockey. Unless [an injury] is really bad, you don't go for repairs. You just get back in."

Williams' day with Cup includes marriage proposal

Thursday, 08.02.2012 / 7:43 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

When Justin Williams had his first day with the Stanley Cup, back in 2006, he celebrated at his charity golf tournament and was the guest of honor at a parade through his hometown of Cobourg, Ontario.

Justin Williams
Right Wing - LAK
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 37 | PTS: 59
SOG: 241 | +/-: 10

Six years later, Williams is a married father of two, and he chose to spend his second day with hockey's greatest trophy in a slightly more intimate fashion, enjoying a day with the Cup at his home in Ventnor, N.J., on Thursday with a small group of people, followed by a larger party later that night at Caesar's Atlantic City.

"This time it's more family and friends," Williams told

The Los Angeles Kings forward started his day with the Cup just before 9 a.m., and the first order of business was eating Cheerios out of it with wife Kelly, son Jaxon, 4, and daughter Jade, 17 months.

Other children had their turn with the Cup and some spoons -- the house was filled with a number of them as Williams' sister and some of Kelly's four brothers brought their families.

Despite Alfredsson return, Swedish team in transition

Tuesday, 07.31.2012 / 6:18 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Ottawa Senators fans everywhere were no doubt excited by captain Daniel Alfredsson's announcement that he would be returning for his 17th season. But there's another team wondering how long he'll be playing.

As captain of the Swedish national team at the World Championship in April, 39-year-old Alfredsson partnered with a new generation of Swedish stars, including Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog and Senators teammate Erik Karlsson. Sweden finished a disappointing sixth at the Worlds, and the team and ensuing retirement of legendary defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom from the Detroit Red Wings marked a changing of the guard in Swedish hockey.

"There's always going to be new players and always going to be older guys stepping down. It's unfortunate," said Landeskog, a 19-year-old who served as an alternate captain at the Worlds despite being the team's second-youngest player. "Playing against Alfie and Lidstrom [in the NHL] was a dream come true. At the same time, there's always going to be a generation shift. There's always going to be new younger players coming up. That's what makes it so exciting."

Cristobal Huet hoping for an NHL return

Tuesday, 07.31.2012 / 10:41 AM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

Cristobal Huet wants to come back to the NHL after a two-year exile in Europe.

Sent overseas by the Chicago Blackhawks to provide salary-cap relief from the final two seasons of a four-year, $22.4-million contract after they won the 2010 Stanley Cup with Huet on the bench, the French-born goaltender is eager to prove he should still be playing in the sport's top League.

"I still belong, I'm better than some other guys, and I'd like another shot," Huet said recently from Europe, adding his agent had talked to "a few" NHL teams. "I'd love to come back, but I know once you are out of the League a little bit, guys tend to forget about you and that's the nature of the beast. But I still think I have something to show in the NHL, and to prove I still belong there. For me, it would be a great second chance to come back and play in the best League."

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