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NHL Insider

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.

Nugent-Hopkins gets nine games to show he belongs

Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 5:42 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, apparently has passed his first major test with the Edmonton Oilers on the way to what he hopes will be an exhilarating NHL career.

Following a productive preseason, Nugent-Hopkins appears to be in line for a nine-game NHL audition. Before he plays his 10th game, the Oilers will have to decide if the center will stick with the big club or go back to his junior team, the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.

Nugent-Hopkins, who was skating alongside Ales Hemsky and Taylor Hall in the team's final exhibition game, led the Oilers with 6 points, including 5 assists, in four preseason games.

The team's ninth game of the season is Oct. 27, at home against the Washington Capitals.

"Ryan will start the season with us," Oilers coach Tom Renney told the Edmonton Journal. "We all understand the parameters there that he can operate within before we have to make a real concrete decision. Again, we'll do it a game at a time, but he has had a very good camp."

On and off ice, Scheifele has earned his NHL spot

Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 5:37 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets spent the summer checking items off their massive to-do list, and that process continued Monday with another big item.

The Jets signed 18-year-old center Mark Scheifele, the seventh pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, to a three-year, entry-level contract.

The signing topped a hectic three-week stretch for Scheifele in which he attended the club's prospect camp and then emerged as the team's leading preseason scorer with 4 goals and 4 assists in just five games.

He debuted in front of the home fans Sept. 20 with a four-point effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and later saw ice time with Evander Kane flanking him on the left wing on what could be a second line.

Saad signs, likely to start on Blackhawks' top line

Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 5:28 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

CHICAGO -- What's been speculated for almost a week now is a reality.

The Chicago Blackhawks announced Tuesday they have signed 18-year old forward Brandon Saad, a second-round pick at the 2011 Entry Draft, to a three-year, entry-level contract and that he'll start the season in the NHL -- beginning with Friday's season-opener against the Stars in Dallas.

The rookie likely will start the season at left wing on the team's top line, playing alongside center Jonathan Toews and right wing Patrick Sharp.

Crosby unlikely to be cleared during road trip

Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 2:15 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby doesn't expect to be cleared for contact during the Pittsburgh Penguins' season-opening road trip.
Crosby, out with a concussion since Jan. 6, accompanied the Penguins on Tuesday as they left to open the season Thursday night in Vancouver. The Penguins also stop in Calgary and Edmonton, and Crosby plans to take part in all three scheduled game-day skates and two practices during the trip.
Because Crosby won't be seeing any of his doctors until the Penguins return home, it isn't likely he'll switch his white practice helmet -- which signifies no contact -- to the team's regular black helmet.
"I'm happy to be out there, and when the time comes (for contact) I'll make sure I'm ready," Crosby said after practicing Tuesday. "To be honest, I'm just happy to be out there and working hard. It was a long time I wasn't able to do that. It's nice to be out there and go hard."

NBC Sports Group's broadcasters set for season

Tuesday, 10.04.2011 / 11:03 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hunter - Staff Writer

"The caliber of play in the League -- it's just amazing to see where the young players have taken the game, how it improves and evolves." -- Pierre McGuire

The top broadcast team assembled by NBC Sports Group -- Mike "Doc" Emrick and Eddie Olczyk in the booth, with Pierre McGuire between the benches and Mike Milbury in studio -- is about to embark on a strenuous journey that begins Thursday with opening night in Boston and won't end until the 2012 Stanley Cup champion is crowned in June.

And to listen to Emrick speak on a conference call Monday, they all can't wait to get started.

"It's exciting to have our group back together," the Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer said. "The 10 minutes we spent on the phone before the conference call started were hilarious, and I anticipate a lot of that being on the air, too. I'm glad Eddie Olczyk didn't sing at Wrigley Field when he was out there for the seventh inning stretch -- it saves him to do a duet if (famed Bruins anthem singer) Rene Rancourt wants him. Pierre's stitch reward is up to $500 a stitch this season, and now that Andy Rooney has cut back we have the resident curmudgeon in Mike Milbury."
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Quote of the Day

That's today's game. That's one of the things you have to deal with when you're a championship team. Guys are going to earn more money based on their performance and what they've achieved, [and] deservedly so. [Saad] falls into that category.

— Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Brandon Saad, who was traded by Chicago to the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason