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NHL Insider

Confident Kings face season-defining road trip

Tuesday, 03.24.2015 / 9:33 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- This is the regular season and that was the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Los Angeles Kings have to re-create or at least re-enact how they played with zero room for error in winning the Stanley Cup last season if they're going to have a chance to defend it this season.

They expect they will be able to do it. Confidence remains high even though consistency has been lacking.

"We know we can do it," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "We're confident that we will do it. There's no hope involved in that."

The Kings head into their game Tuesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) trailing the contenders in the Western Conference playoff race with 10 games remaining. They are two points behind the Calgary Flames for third in the Pacific Division and four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

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Schneider thriving with heavy workload for Devils

Monday, 03.23.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider would gladly trade his eye-catching statistics if it meant having an opportunity to participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 26-26-7
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: .929
Schneider's numbers in his first season as a No. 1 goalie appear good enough to have the Devils heading to the postseason. But even a 2.16 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage aren't good enough to overcome New Jersey's 2.21 goals-for average.

There are five goalies with a save percentage of .927 or higher at this point in the season, and four are playing for teams in the postseason hunt: Carey Price (.938) of the Montreal Canadiens, Cam Talbot (.929) of the New York Rangers, Devan Dubnyk (.927) of the Minnesota Wild and Pekka Rinne (.927) of the Nashville Predators.

Schneider, meanwhile, is on the outside looking in. He'll likely start his 62nd game Monday when the Devils play the Los Angeles Kings at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US).

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Monahan leading Flames' push to end playoff drought

Sunday, 03.22.2015 / 11:18 PM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

CALGARY -- One by one, a young Sean Monahan would stand in the backyard of his Brampton, Ontario home and pick off fence board after fence board.
 
One by one, his father, John, would replace the damage to his fence.
 
"Probably eight or nine a week," Monahan said, flashing a sly, almost bashful smile. "Between throwing the lacrosse ball around and shooting pucks, all the time, the fence boards would be cracked in half or knocked out.
 
“I don't think anything drove me to do it. I just wanted to do it. I enjoyed shooting pucks. I think it was just the passion for the game. I always wanted to hold a hockey stick or lacrosse stick and it was something I enjoyed doing.
 
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Sharks running out of time to make playoffs

Sunday, 03.22.2015 / 12:45 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- For the first time since 2002-03, the math does not look very good for the San Jose Sharks.

That might be why coach Todd McLellan is happy to ignore the math.

The Sharks fell six points behind the Calgary Flames for third in the Pacific Division and eight points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference on Saturday with 10 games left to play.

The Sharks 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens came minutes after the Jets finished beating the Washington Capitals 3-0 at home and hours after the Flames earned a point in a 3-2 overtime loss at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In that short span of time, the Sharks streak of 10 straight seasons in the playoffs came that much closer to ending.

"I'm not very good at math so I'm not doing it," McLellan said. "We've got to play a game in Ottawa [on Monday], so somebody else who knows how to add and subtract can do that for you. I'm not."

When the Sharks began this seven-game road trip in Winnipeg on March 17, they were five points out of a playoff spot with 13 games left.

Five days and three games later, the deficit increased by one point, but the number of games left to overcome it dropped significantly.

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Stastny fitting in with hometown St. Louis Blues

Sunday, 03.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Paul Stastny entered the summer of 2014 with a choice, one that would affect his immediate NHL future.

When that choice involved a chance to go home for the 29-year-old Quebec City native who lived most of his childhood in St. Louis because his Hall of Fame father (Peter Stastny) played his final two NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Stastny was excited about the next chapter in his life.

But after signing a four-year, $28 million contract with St. Louis on July 1, there were naturally expectations to live up to, most of which would come from those judging from the outside. Those expectations come with the territory when you're arguably the biggest free-agent center on the market.

Through 64 games in his first season with the Blues, Stastny had 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists), or 0.66 points per game, which is below his career average of 0.85 entering this season. But to those on the inside, particularly Stastny's teammates, coaches, and management, his performance has been on the rise just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Stastny enters the Blues' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings [Noon ET; NBC, SN360] sixth on the team in scoring. In 2013-14, his final season with the Colorado Avalanche, he had 25 goals, the most since scoring 28 in his rookie season, and 60 points in 71 games.

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Barrie improving his defensive game for Avalanche

Friday, 03.20.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- Like most young defensemen, Tyson Barrie struggles at times in his end. But he's improved so much since the beginning of the season that Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy no longer considers him to be a defensive liability.

"It can be tough," Barrie said. "Earlier, I was having some problems with it. It's something you work on, watching video and working with the coaches. The offensive instincts, you don't want to mess with those too much. You learn, try not to be reckless. It's something I'll need to focus on my whole career."

Barrie, 23, has the offensive part down. A fluid skater and puck-handler, he has five goals and 10 assists in his past 14 games and is among the NHL's top-scoring defensemen with 11 goals and 35 assists (46 points) in 68 games.

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Lightning D-man Stralman effective in many roles

Friday, 03.20.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Long - NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- When defenseman Anton Stralman signed a five-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on the opening day of NHL free agency last July, he did so with the hopes of becoming a top-pair defenseman.

Nine months later, Stralman has exceeded expectations in many ways. He has played in all 71 games and held the Lightning blue line together when it was dealing with injuries to Victor Hedman, Matthew Carle and recently acquired Braydon Coburn.

It's the opportunity that Stralman, a 28-year-old native of Tibro, Sweden, has embraced. He has remained a steady presence on defense and become a valuable part of the power play. He has matched a career high with 34 points (six goals) and is plus-20 averaging about 22 minutes a game.

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Pirri goes from scratch to scorer for Panthers

Thursday, 03.19.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- This is how things have been going lately for Florida Panthers forward Brandon Pirri.

Forward Brad Boyes had just skated near the outside of the right circle when he dropped a pass near the top of the circle. Almost as quickly as Pirri received the pass, he released a wrist shot that whizzed between a couple of Montreal Canadiens players and rang in off the far post.

Just like that, Pirri had his 13th goal in 18 games, an Ovechkin-like pace that projects to 59 goals over a full NHL regular season.

"They're looking for a scorer in Florida," play-by-play voice Steve Goldstein said during the Panthers'  3-2 loss Tuesday. "He may be right here in this building. That guy."

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Bruins to contend with Hammond, surging Senators

Thursday, 03.19.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has heard of Ottawa Senators rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond, and the Bruins' leading scorer with 22 goals is impressed.

"I heard he likes to eat McDonald's. That's about it," Marchand said Wednesday after practice at Ristuccia Arena. "He's in a pretty good spot, McDonald's for life, can't argue with that one."

Hammond, nicknamed "The Hamburglar," has been given free food for life at six McDonald's locations in the Ottawa Valley. But he didn't get that reward because he's expressed a love for the food. Recently, the 27-year-old with the fast-food nickname has been as dominant as any goaltender in the NHL and he's helped the Senators stay in the race for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

In his first 12 NHL starts, Hammond is 11-0-1 with a 1.35 goals-against average and .956 save percentage. He is the second goaltender in NHL history to yield two or fewer goals in each of his first 12 starts, which ties the record of Boston's Frank Brimsek set in 1938-39.

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Kopitar, Gaborik searching for chemistry with Kings

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik were briefly neighbors in the popular town of Manhattan Beach, Calif., when Kopitar was remodeling a home earlier this season. It's a natural fit: The two are cut from the same cloth, elite European players who enjoy anonymity in Southern California.

But the buddy-movie notion of the two taking Kopitar's dog, Gustl, for a walk on the strand is slightly farfetched.

"We haven't gotten that far yet," Kopitar said.

That also might apply to their ongoing chemistry project this season for the Los Angeles Kings. After Gaborik and Kopitar clicked in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two will continue searching for that mesh when the Kings look to continue their climb up the Western Conference standings Wednesday at the Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

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Quote of the Day

It is really special. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight, and for my first [NHL] game in here it was great. I played here as an elementary-school player in the city championships and this was my first time back. It was a lot of fun..

— Toronto native Brandon Pirri after scoring 2 goals for Panthers in win at Maple Leafs on Thursday
AMP No Bull Moment of the Week