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NHL Insider

Hitchcock has Blues challenging West's elite

Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- A changing of the guard in the coaching ranks after the season has already gotten underway presents its own unique challenges.

The incoming coach not only has to ask how can he change the culture of a team, but in doing that must also look at players individually and wonder what buttons to push in order to set the transformation process in motion.

When Ken Hitchcock stepped into the challenge of reforming the St. Louis Blues, the team was 6-7-0, floundering in 14th place in the Western Conference standings and playing stagnant hockey.

After Sunday night's 6-4 come-from-behind win over Columbus, the Blues are 13-2-4 under Hitchcock and quickly making the trek up the conference standings, where they currently sit in fourth place, only four points behind Chicago for the No. 1 seed. It's been quite the resurgence.

In the post-lockout era, the Blues (19-9-4) have typically found themselves at the bottom looking up. They've made big pushes before, only to be on the outside looking in when all is said and done -- aside from the 2008-09 season, their only playoff berth in the last six seasons.

College pals Stastny, Carle anticipate latest reunion

Monday, 12.19.2011 / 6:13 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

DENVER -- There will be plenty of good-natured bantering tonight when former University of Denver teammates Paul Stastny and Matt Carle skate onto the Pepsi Center ice.

Stastny, who is in his sixth season with the Colorado Avalanche, and Carle, in his seventh NHL season and fourth with the Philadelphia Flyers, played pivotal roles when Denver won a national championship in 2004-05, and they remain close friends.

"It's always fun playing against him," Carle said after this morning pregame skate. "He's always trying to joke around on the ice and stuff. I'm a little more serious when I'm out there and he's always trying to get a laugh out of me when we're playing against each other. It's nothing too serious, but he keeps it fun out there."

Stars hope to beat Ducks as homestand starts

Monday, 12.19.2011 / 3:04 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

FRISCO, Texas -- Even after a road trip that saw the Dallas Stars take three out of five games and six of a possible 10 points, captain Brenden Morrow was less than pleased with how it ended, a 6-3 loss at New Jersey on Friday night in Newark in the second game of a back-to-back.

But Dallas begins a three-game homestand on Monday night against Anaheim, a team that is 0-8-3 in its last 11 games away from home and is fresh off a 5-3 loss at Winnipeg on Friday to start a four-game road trip in disappointing fashion. Meanwhile, the Stars are focused on atoning for their poor showing against the Devils just three days ago in the Garden State.

"Yeah, it was a bit of a letdown. It could have been a great trip, 4-1 and going coast-to-coast like that would have been a big accomplishment," Morrow said. "A little flat in that Jersey game, had some time to rest and recover and think we're ready for tonight."

Cunneyworth aims to make his mark on Canadiens

Sunday, 12.18.2011 / 12:32 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- If there is one major difference to be seen from Randy Cunneyworth's first game behind the Montreal Canadiens bench, it was the smile on Lars Eller's face.

No, Eller was not pleased that his Canadiens blew yet another lead at home in Saturday night's 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils. But when he was asked to address the amount of ice time he received in the game, he couldn't help but grin.

After pretty frequent benchings under previous coach Jacques Martin, Eller was the center who received the second-most ice time against the Devils, behind only Tomas Plekanec. His 18:25 included 2:22 on the penalty kill, a role he saw only sparingly under Martin -- and Eller was also used at even strength more than any other forward on the Canadiens.

Crowd roars for Selanne from start to finish

Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 11:40 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets may have felt like guests at their own house party at times on Saturday night.

Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne's first NHL appearance in Winnipeg in nearly 16 years has generated countless written words this week. Winnipeg hockey fans took every opportunity on Saturday night to roar their approval for the long-departed Winnipeg legend, who received ovations before the national anthems and his first shift as well as another round of cheers during the first television time-out early in the first period.

"It's a difficult situation to deal with that because you're in your home rink," Jets coach Claude Noel said, "and they're cheering for an opponent. It's almost like you've got mixed messages coming your way. I thought that early in the game, it almost looked like we were confused."

Couturier taken to hospital for further evaluation

Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 5:36 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was at a loss for words when asked about the rash of head injuries his team has endured this season.
On Monday, the team learned leading scorer Claude Giroux would be out indefinitely with a concussion. Three days later, it was announced that Flyers captain Chris Pronger was done for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs with severe post-concussion syndrome.
Rookie Sean Couturier became the third player to be sidelined by a head injury this week after being hit in the head by a puck Saturday afternoon in a 6-0 loss to the Boston Bruins. Fellow rookie Brayden Schenn is also out with a concussion.
"You have to ask yourself, 'Are we in a bad stretch here?' " Laviolette said. "Is it some tough breaks where things are happening and guys are getting banged in the head? … It's a good question."

City of Winnipeg ready to salute Selanne

Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 4:37 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG - The memories from Teemu Selanne's rookie season in Winnipeg cross all lines in the city's hockey culture.

Those memories weave all across the city's fervent fan base, through the media corps that covered Winnipeg's NHL days then and now and into the dressing room of the current incarnation of the Jets.

Selanne's 76-goal rookie season in 1992-93 still resonates deeply in Winnipeg, and his arrival with the Anaheim Ducks for a contest Saturday night at MTS Centre is perhaps the hottest ticket in town since the Jets' season-opener Oct. 9.

"There will be a lot of buzz in the building regarding Selanne," Jets coach Claude Noel said, "and there should be. He's had a great career, and we want him to continue having a great career after the game. For what he has done for a lot of things here, he has been a tremendous player in the League and still is."

Selanne's 132-point rookie season earned him the Calder Memorial Trophy and began a career that is now in its 19th NHL season. Remarkably enough, Selanne's 76 goals that season only tied him for the League lead, as Buffalo's Alexander Mogilny also posted 76 tallies.

Selanne happy to bring family for Jets reunion

Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 1:28 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG – It has been nearly 16 years since Teemu Selanne last showed up in Winnipeg for an NHL game.

But Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks will play the Winnipeg Jets tonight at the MTS Centre in Selanne's first game back in Manitoba since Feb. 4, 1996.

Three days after that 1996 game, the original Winnipeg Jets shipped Selanne in a four-player trade to Anaheim, where he has since built a life with his family and further established himself as one of the all-time NHL greats. Selanne has recorded 900 points with Anaheim since the deal, while also making stops in San Jose and Colorado before returning to Southern California, and is the Ducks' all-time leading scorer.

Now Selanne is back in Winnipeg, and the Ducks made Selanne available to the media Saturday morning at a downtown hotel. The event allowed Selanne to venture back nearly 20 years to his days with the Jets.

Martin's tenure in Montreal had highs, lows

Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 1:16 PM / NHL Insider

Here's a look at the Jacques Martin era in Montreal, which lasted two-plus eventful seasons:

June 1, 2009 – Montreal names Jacques Martin as the 26
th coach in franchise history. One year after earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens fired Guy Carbonneau before the end of the 2008-09 season and finished as the No. 8 seed before being swept by the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

April 10, 2010 – The Canadiens clinched a playoff spot in the final game of their season with a 4-3 overtime loss against Toronto. They ended up with the No. 8 seed after Philadelphia defeated the New York Rangers in a shootout to claim in the No. 7 seed.

April 28, 2010 – Jaroslav Halak made 37 saves to help the Canadiens complete one of the most improbable upsets in NHL postseason history with a 2-1 win against the top-seeded Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the opening round at Verizon Center. Not only did the Canadiens defeat the Presidents' Trophy winners, they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to do so. 

Playing, coach experiences could help Cunneyworth

Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 11:45 AM / NHL Insider

MONTREAL - Randy Cunneyworth spent 20 years as a player in the NHL building a reputation as a tough, grinding forward with great leadership abilities.

He says he coaches the exact same way.

"If I were to self-evaluate myself, I would say my coaching style is similar to the way I played," Cunneyworth said after being named the 27th head coach in Montreal Canadiens history Saturday morning. "I felt for the most part I played very hard, and I like to think I coach very hard. I compete."

Cunneyworth will have the interim tag, but general manager Pierre Gauthier said he will be in charge for the remainder of this season and a re-evaluation will be done in the offseason.  Cunneyworth has been a coach for 11 seasons, most of them as a head man in the American Hockey League.

He spent seven seasons at the helm of the Rochester Americans, the Buffalo Sabres minor league affiliate. He led the team to six playoff berths, two 100-point seasons and reached the conference finals in 2003-04.

Cunneyworth earned his first experience as a coach in the NHL during two seasons as an assistant with the Atlanta Thrashers before being named the head coach Montreal's AHL affiliate the Hamilton Bulldogs last season.
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Quote of the Day

I'm a hockey player and that's what I love to do. That is what I am here for. Everything else is just a side note.

— Oilers forward Connor McDavid on moving beyond the anticipation of his long-awaited arrival in the NHL