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NHL Insider

Newcomers on D give Rangers a lift

Saturday, 12.24.2011 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Anton Stralman
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 4
SOG: 10 | +/-: 7
NEW YORK -- John Tortorella was very blunt about his first impression of defenseman Anton Stralman.

"I didn't know who the hell he was when we got him," Tortorella said. "When I first saw him, I didn't like him."

Signing the 25-year-old Stralman on Nov. 5 was something of a necessity. The Rangers were carrying only six defensemen and were already without Marc Staal, who hasn't played a game this season due to complications from a concussion, and would eventually lose blueliners Michael Sauer, Steve Eminger and Jeff Woywitka to injuries in the weeks that followed.

Jagr just wants 'a winning night' in return to Garden

Friday, 12.23.2011 / 2:05 PM / NHL Insider

Emily Kaplan - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Jaromir Jagr sat in the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden on Friday morning, offering reporters calculated but thoughtful answers about his return to the NHL and the chemistry he's developed with linemate Claude Giroux.

But when the 39-year-old was asked what he expects from the Garden crowd Friday night, he crocked his head back and laughed.

For that, Jagr had no response.

"Hopefully a winning night," Jagr said with a grin.

Wheeler's offensive awakening keys Jets

Friday, 12.23.2011 / 12:57 AM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG Blake Wheeler came under considerable criticism – or at least consternation – from Winnipeg Jets fans and media when he failed to score through the first 18 games of the season.

The big, mobile right wing had scored 18 goals last season, and began the season on the Jets' top line with center Bryan Little and left wing Andrew Ladd. Back in October, fans and media saw Wheeler's track record and skill-set, preordaining him for at least 20 goals this season.

Wheeler finally scored on Nov. 17 at home against the Washington Capitals, and his subsequent offensive awakening has helped key a 7-2-1 December mark for the Jets.

Avalanche stick with Giguere against surging Blues

Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 4:57 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche will stick with the hot hand in goal and start Jean Sebastien Giguere for the third game in a row Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center.

The Blues will go with a hot goalie of their own, Brian Elliott, who struggled a year ago while splitting time with Ottawa and Colorado.

Giguere, 34, has won his past two starts with a 1.44 goals-against average and .949 save percentage, and he owns a 6-4-0 record overall with a 1.86 GAA, a .929 save percentage and one shutout, after signing a two-year, $2.5 million contract as a free agent.

Kings hope Sutter's quiet intensity sparks turnaround

Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 4:07 PM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Hardly a peep could be heard from Darryl Sutter as he conducted an hour-long practice with his new team.

Dressed head-to-toe in black and silver warm-up gear, Sutter directed players and moved traffic with his whistle as if he hadn't missed a beat.

Most of the Los Angeles Kings are already familiar with Sutter, if only by reputation, and they literally expect to hear a lot more from their new coach moving forward.

Stars contend with Flyers, possibly Giroux

Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 2:40 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

DALLAS -- Will he or won't he? The big question surrounding Wednesday night's game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars seems to be whether or not Flyers top-line center Claude Giroux, currently tied for the NHL lead in points with 39, will return to the ice after missing the last four games with a concussion.

Giroux has been called a game-time decision by Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette, but whether or not he's on the ice, the Stars know they're in for a tough fight, even if the Flyers enter on a two-game winless streak.

Buble has 'greatest day' of his life at Canucks practice

Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 6:57 PM / NHL Insider

Michael Buble's Christmas wish came early.

The three-time Grammy Award-winning singer, fresh from his appearance on "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend, had what he called the "greatest day" of his life when he joined his favorite team, the Vancouver Canucks, prior to Tuesday's practice at Rogers Arena.

After signing a one-day contract with the Canucks, he was on the ice for about 15 minutes -- including a face-to-face shootout showdown with goaltender Roberto Luongo. With the players tapping their sticks on the ice, Buble bore down on Luongo and shot blocker-side but hit the post and fell into the boards -- triggering laughter from everyone. 

Quenneville: Oft-injured Pens still formidable

Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:12 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Facing the star-heavy Pittsburgh Penguins often is one of the biggest challenges for any NHL team. Lately, though, the Penguins are proving to be beatable without captain Sidney Crosby on the ice.
Crosby will sit out his sixth consecutive game Tuesday when the Penguins oppose the Chicago Blackhawks, who went into the night's play with a five-game winning streak and an NHL-best 46 points. Pittsburgh, by contrast, dropped four of five games before beating Buffalo 8-3 on Saturday behind Evgeni Malkin's seventh career hat trick and five-point game.
The Penguins are 13-9-3 this season without Crosby, who has missed all but eight of their last 74 games dating to the first week of January. Crosby, coincidentally, has played only two career games against the Blackhawks, none since he last opposed them on Feb. 14, 2007.

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."
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Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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