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NHL Insider

High ratings for often unnoticed Nielsen

Friday, 03.04.2011 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

It's a measure of Frans Nielsen's high standards that he didn't feel a performance good enough to earn him second star honors on Wednesday night was one of his better games.
Nielsen sent two writers into gales of laughter when he told them "I thought I played like (crap)" after setting up three goals to help the Islanders beat Minnesota 4-1, putting a crimp into the Wild's playoff hopes.
Jack Capuano, the Isles' interim coach, wasn't complaining.
"Maybe that's a good thing," he said. "The coaches think he played pretty good."

Rob Blake discusses transition on NHL Hour

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 7:44 PM / NHL Insider


At this time last year, Rob Blake was in his 20th season as an NHL defenseman and gearing up for another run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a member of the San Jose Sharks.

Fast-forward 12 months and Blake is still very much involved in the game -- but now instead of scoring goals and dishing out big hits, he's part of the League's Hockey Operations department. Hired on Jan. 27, the veteran of 1,270 regular-season games for the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and Sharks, whose career highlights include winning the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold, works with Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell and his staff on all aspects of the game, including the All-Star Game and the NHL's summer Research and Development Camp.

"The transition's been good and (I'm) welcoming the change," Blake told Stan Fischler, guest-hosting during Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman."

Defending champions rounding into form

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 5:33 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Has the unbeatable attitude that spread like wildfire through the Blackhawks' dressing room last spring finally returned?

"The one thing I talked to our guys about and our coaches earlier in the year was it doesn't happen overnight. As much as you'd like to have these things sorted out back in the fall, when you have a new group like we had this year it takes time before everyone really settles into what they can do to help the team."
-- Chicago GM Stan Bowman

Admitting it publically is too difficult, especially when they closely study how the final 20 minutes of their last two games unfolded with Minnesota and Calgary creating some scary moments for the Hawks and their fans. Believing it is different, and albeit in a very quiet way, that's definitely what is at least now starting to happen.

Chicago has won six straight games and is 8-1-2 in the last 11 to climb from 11th to fourth in the Western Conference.

"We've been looking for a run like this all season long," Patrick Sharp said following Chicago's latest win, 6-4 against Calgary on Wednesday.

Bonus games impacting postseason chase

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 4:25 PM / NHL Insider

David Kalan - NHL.com Staff Writer

Things may seem a bit odd for the Wild when they step on the ice at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, but the players can hardly be blamed for finding the surroundings unfamiliar. There was once a time when NHL teams played in every other team's building at least once a season, but the increase in divisional games and the expansion of the NHL from 21 to 30 teams over the past two decades has put an end to those days.

The Wild generally only find themselves in a particular Eastern Conference arena once every two years, and when they do it is often the only time they'll see that arena's home team that season, but that won't be the case tonight in New York. To fill out the 82-game schedule, every team has three cross-conference foes that it will face twice each year.


Bowman remains confident Hawks will find way

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 3:42 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Based on their tight schedule and upcoming four-game road trip Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gave his surging club a well-deserved day off Thursday. But General Manager Stan Bowman was in the office and he graciously gave NHL.com time for a phone interview in the afternoon:

: After doing some analytics on your schedule going down the stretch, you have 18 games left, 11 on the road, and your opponents have an average winning percentage of .586 (as of Thursday). I guess you would have to agree that it isn't easy going down the stretch, right?

Bowman: No, no. We play a lot of the teams in the East, which is different. Whether it's good or bad, it's just unusual to have half your games out of conference. You can't take anything for granted, truthfully. It doesn't matter who you play, what their record is, whether it's home or away, you still have to go out there and do it. We're not taking anything for granted at this point.

Oilers embrace spoiler role as Blue Jackets visit

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 2:04 PM / NHL Insider

Robin Brownlee - NHL.com Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Out of playoff contention or not, the Edmonton Oilers have something to play for in their remaining 18 games, starting against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place tonight.

While they are 15th in the Western Conference and 24 points out of eighth place, the Oilers are embracing the role of spoilers against teams scrambling for playoff spots, like Columbus. And there's more.

"Guys who put the jersey on from this point on, you're auditioning for either more opportunity in our organization or the opportunity, period, to be here," coach Tom Renney said.

Versteeg gets first shot at playing former team

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 12:56 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- When Kris Versteeg arrived in Toronto over the summer, he circled March 5 on his calendar. That's the only time this season the Maple Leafs will play his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, when Versteeg was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 14, he had to get a new calendar. On that one, the first day he circled was March 3.
"I said I was looking forward to the March 5 game against Chicago," Versteeg said following Thursday's morning practice here at Wells Fargo Center. "I played four years there, built a lot of friendships there, so now I guess we're going to turn the Chicago game into Toronto because this is the only time I'll get to play against a former team."


Break in schedule didn't mean a break for Flyers

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 12:45 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- It's not often that a four-day break comes up on the calendar at this point in the season, but Flyers coach Peter Laviolette wanted to take advantage of it.
After giving his players off Sunday, he spent the next three days putting them through high-speed, up-tempo practices, with heavy emphasis on conditioning drills, and also pushed them hard off the ice.
"You always expect the worst," forward Jody Shelley told NHL.com following Thursday's morning practice here at Wells Fargo Center. "I think those expectations were met. It was a tough week."
Part of the reasoning for the hard practices was a chance for Laviolette to bring up his team's level of conditioning.


Sutter believes players buy-in has sparked surge

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 10:41 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Brent Sutter wasn't going to change his theories, even if it cost him his job as Calgary's head coach.
"I had to stay the course or else I wouldn't be standing in front of you guys right now," Sutter said after his Flames lost to Chicago 6-4 Wednesday here at the United Center.
Instead, Sutter had to wait for the resistance he was getting from his players to subside and hold out hope that the guys in the dressing room would start to hold one another accountable.
"If it's only coming from the coach, eventually it gets shut out," Sutter said. "At some point they have to do it inside the room."


Frolik delighted to contribute to Hawks' win

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 1:11 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO – The look of relief on Michael Frolik's face was unmistakable.
He'd just potted his first goal and point in 10 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and first marker in 33 games dating back to the last time he'd scored on Dec. 17 for the Florida Panthers. It happened with just 1:35 left in the first period of Wednesday night's 6-4 win against the Calgary Flames, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead and momentum heading into the first intermission.
It also gave Frolik a reason to smile – knowing his frustrating scoring slump was over.
"I feel so much lighter," said Frolik, who was acquired by Chicago in a Feb. 9 trade that sent forward Jack Skille to Florida. "At first I was like, 'Whew! Finally it went in.' It was a good feeling. I haven’t had that feeling for a long time, so it was good."
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Quote of the Day

I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top.

— Forward Brandon Dubinsky on signing a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets