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NHL Insider

Pens expect cool reception for Jagr's return to Pitt

Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 10:19 AM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

"It's not the first time Jaromir Jagr has come into a building and hasn't been liked. Sure he's going to expect it, hear it. But there are players who hear the crowd and feed off it." -- Dan Bylsma

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins fans couldn't wait to fall in love with Jaromir Jagr all over again.
Just as they enjoyed watching a maturing Mario Lemieux mentor an immensely skilled but very raw Jagr in the early 1990s, they spent this past June imagining an older Jagr complementing their current-day superstars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
They even dared to speculate that Jagr would enter his 40s the same way he ended his teens -- by helping lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.

Perry, Thomas, few surprises make All-2011 team

Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

As we say farewell to 2011 and hello to 2012, now is as good a time as any to look back and see which players were at the top of their game during 2011.

After careful consideration, these are the three forwards, two defensemen and goaltender who excelled during 2011 calendar year in the regular season.

City of Pittsburgh braces for returns of Jagr, Talbot

Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 4:27 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The city of Pittsburgh has changed a lot since the days when billows of smoke from blast furnaces filled the sky like dark clouds, but the passion of its sports fans remains.

Sporting heroes are exulted, and tales of where fathers were when Maz beat the Yankees or Franco's reception was immaculate are passed to sons as part of family folklore. That same passion applies to those who have become villains.

Just before Christmas a DJ for a local rock radio station read derogatory holiday-themed poems about Barry Bonds. He hasn't worn a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform in 19 years.

Bonds is the least-liked former player in this city, because baseball in Pittsburgh hasn't been the same since he left. That would probably make Jaromir Jagr, who will play in Pittsburgh for the first time Thursday as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Public Enemy No. 2. 

Holding down playoff spot at Christmas a good sign

Saturday, 12.24.2011 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Like most of its fans, the National Hockey League is off for the Christmas holidays. The 14 teams that reached the holiday not holding a playoff berth may want to use the time to regroup -- because history shows that while making the playoffs when you're outside the top eight in your conference on Christmas isn't impossible, it's certainly not easy.

Of the 16 teams that held a playoff berth one year ago, 13 still owned one when the season ended on April 10. That's just about the average during the past 10 seasons -- since the NHL expanded to 30 teams for the 2000-01 season, 128 of 160 teams (80 percent) that were in the top eight when the season broke for Christmas were still there at the end of the season. In addition, 12 of the 32 teams that were on the outside looking in were two points or less out of the top eight when they reached the holidays -- several had the same number of points but were below the top eight on tiebreakers, and others had better winning percentages but had played fewer games.

But if you favorite team has dug itself a big hole, keep the faith -- big comebacks aren't easy, but they can happen. The Buffalo Sabres were eight points outside a playoff berth last Christmas but rallied to finish seventh in the East. Since the shootout was adopted in 2005, only the 2010-11 Sabres and the 2007-08 Washington Capitals have overcome Christmas deficits as large as eight points to make the playoffs. Vancouver made up a nine-point deficit in pre-shootout 2001-02, the largest since the League expanded to 30 teams.

And having a big lead over the ninth-place team at the Christmas break is great, but it's still not a guarantee of playoff hockey. Last year's Atlanta Thrashers appeared to be in good shape for a postseason berth when the Christmas break arrived -- they were nine points ahead of ninth-place Carolina. But while the Hurricanes missed the playoffs, so did the Thrashers -- and the nine-point advantage they couldn't hold is the largest of the shootout era. The New York Rangers wasted a 10-point lead in 2001-02, again during the 30-team era but before the shootout was adopted. 

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.
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