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NHL Insider

Noel's challenge: Keep players cool for opener

Saturday, 10.08.2011 / 8:15 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Coach Claude Noel will offer no elaborate pregame mantra just before his Winnipeg Jets take the ice for Sunday's season-opener against the Montreal Canadiens in what is sure to be an electric atmosphere inside the 15,004-seat MTS Centre.
After all, these NHL-starved Winnipeggers have waited 15 years for this moment. It was right after the 1995-96 season when the Jets 1.0 departed for Phoenix -- a hole that wasn't filled until this past summer when the Atlanta Thrashers moved in.

Greiss excited for opening night start

Saturday, 10.08.2011 / 5:15 PM / NHL Insider

Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- If San Jose Sharks goaltender Thomas Greiss had any butterflies Saturday morning, just hours before his first career NHL opening night start, he did a good job hiding them.

"I'm excited to play," Greiss said, smiling as he fielded questions after the Sharks' final tune-up for their opener against Phoenix. "Home opener, it's great."

A year ago, Greiss was playing for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League. He re-signed with the Sharks, even though they already had two veteran goaltenders, starter Antti Niemi and backup Antero Niittymaki. But Niemi is still recovering from minor surgery to remove a cyst on a leg, and Niittymaki will be out for months after undergoing hip surgery.

Enter Greiss, drafted in the third by San Jose in 2004.

Heat is on Penguins during opening road trip

Saturday, 10.08.2011 / 3:15 PM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- The Pittsburgh Penguins opened the 2011-12 season Thursday with a victory over the Vancouver Canucks, the kind of start the club was hoping for.

It might've been a little too hot for their liking, though.

Center Jordan Staal was forced to leave in the third period of the 4-3 shootout victory over the Canucks with cramping and dehydration. Already without Sidney Crosby, the loss of Staal could have left the Penguins short down the middle for tonight's game against the Calgary Flames.

Given a maintenance day off Friday, though, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said the status of Staal was never in doubt.

Bruins face another opponent looking for revenge

Saturday, 10.08.2011 / 1:35 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

BOSTON -- The Bruins' season-opening reunion with teams they vanquished in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs is scheduled to continue Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit TD Garden.

Boston downed Tampa Bay in seven games in last year's Eastern Conference Finals, including a 1-0 triumph in the series finale on Garden ice.

The early-season rematch has Bruins forward Milan Lucic thinking that the Lightning might have a little extra spring in their step, even though they played Friday night in Carolina (a 5-1 Tampa Bay victory).

Jets aim to turn fan fervor into home wins

Friday, 10.07.2011 / 10:26 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets know they'll be playing in the NHL's smallest arena. Their goal is to make it one of the toughest places for visiting teams.

The MTS Centre, opened in 2004, has just 15,004 seats -- by far the fewest in the NHL. But with a hockey-mad fan base that has already guaranteed a packed house for all 41 games, the building figures to take on the feel of an old-time NHL arena.

Anchored on a small city block in downtown Winnipeg, the building uses every available nook and cranny to squeeze in as many seats as possible. Jets fans in turn have bought every available ticket: The club capped season-ticket sales at 13,000 seats, and there's a waiting list of 8,000 fans should any seats become available.

Hanzal glad to be a Coyote for the long term

Friday, 10.07.2011 / 9:22 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Here are three reasons why Phoenix Coyotes center Martin Hanzal is important to the success of his team: He's strong on the penalty kill, successful in the faceoff circle and improving as an offensive contributor.

But here are the three most important reasons why the Coyotes signed the big 24-year-old Czech to a five-year contract extension this week and invested more than $15 million: Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton.

Jacobs and Neely celebrate, look ahead on NHL Hour

Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 8:08 PM / NHL Insider

Less than an hour before a Stanley Cup championship banner was raised at TD Garden and the puck dropped on the 2011-12 NHL season, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs was in a giddy mood.

"I can't get any better than this right now -- the year hasn't started, we haven't lost a game and we're the reigning Stanley Cup champions," said Jacobs, appearing as a guest to kick off the fifth season of "NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman."

Jacobs and Bruins team president Cam Neely both pulled themselves away from the opening night festivities long enough to speak with Bettman about watching the franchise end its 39-year championship drought, their experiences with the Cup this summer and the challenges that lie ahead as Boston attempts to become the NHL's first repeat champs since Detroit won back-to-back titles in 1997 and '98.

Tillman tribute part of LaBarbera's new mask

Wednesday, 10.05.2011 / 3:45 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Paying homage to his passion for wrestling stars and his favorite band, Metallica, on his mask in recent years was fun, but Coyotes goaltender Jason LaBarbera wanted to take his acknowledgement of heroes to another level this season.

To honor soldiers of all wars and with the hope that those now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will return home safely as soon as possible, LaBarbera's vision and well-known mask designer David Arrigo combined to produce a unique tribute to the fighting men and women in the U.S. and Canada.

"I had fun with the music and the wrestlers, but I wanted this mask to have kind of a deeper meaning and something I felt strongly about," said LaBarbera, who will split time with newcomer Mike Smith between the pipes this season. "I'm really happy with the way this one turned out. David really captured what I wanted perfectly."

Bruins rewarded with their Cup rings

Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 10:12 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

BOSTON – Growing up working class like he did back in his native Quebec, Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron never imagined he'd own a piece a of jewelry featuring more than 300 diamonds.

After receiving his ring Tuesday night for being part of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup champion Bruins, Bergeron couldn't contain his joy and had already sent a photo of his ring to his brother.

"You have to, I guess. He's coming on Thursday, I wanted for him to have a surprise like I did tonight. But I couldn't do it," Bergeron said after a team dinner at the Boston Harbor Hotel, where the team received its hardware. "I couldn't wait to show it to him tonight. And I told him it's not even close to what it looks like when he actually sees it."

Former Thrashers announcer's hockey odyssey

Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 7:18 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

ATLANTA -- Having called exactly 900 regular-season games in the radio booth for the Atlanta Thrashers, Dan Kamal has hockey running through his veins. He has also called play-by-play for the Hershey Bears starting in 1982 and two defunct Atlanta teams, including the IHL's Knights.

During parts of four decades in the booth, he has made his share of connections in the hockey world and recently he embarked on something of an odyssey in the form of a 4,642-mile drive from his home in suburban Alpharetta, Ga., all the way to Anchorage, Alaska.

For the 2011-12 NHL season, Kamal will serve as a reporter for Winnipeg's CJOB, a 50,000-watt radio station that is the city’s top-rated. Kamal will cover all of the road games in the United States for the now relocated franchise that he has followed since it entered the NHL in 1999.
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Quote of the Day

This is a great day for me. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. This is a great opportunity that the St. Louis Blues organization, (owner) Tom Stillman and Doug Armstrong are giving me and trusting me in doing...This is going to be a great challenge for me.

— Martin Brodeur, after announcing his retirement as an NHL player and becoming a senior adviser with the Blues on Thursday