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NHL Insider

Milestones that could be reached in 2011-12

Tuesday, 08.30.2011 / 12:48 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Jarome Iginla
Right Wing - CGY
GOALS: 43 | ASST: 43 | PTS: 86
SOG: 289 | +/-: 0
Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey is a team game. Winning a Stanley Cup requires 20 players performing a variety of roles and working together for a common goal.

This doesn't mean that individual accomplishments aren't important; it's just that no player wants to be seen as placing his own stats before the achievements of his team. Milestones are still something to be celebrated -- as long as they fit into the team context.

Here's a look at some players who have a good chance to reach individual milestones during the 2011-12 season:

Sid not the only star coming back from a major injury

Friday, 08.26.2011 / 10:14 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Pittsburgh Penguins hope Sidney Crosby will be cleared for contact as he works to return from a concussion that ended his season in early January. There's no definite date set for his return, but they're hoping he'll be able to play by opening night or soon afterward.

But Crosby is not the only key player -- or even the only key Penguin -- who's working to come back from an injury that ended his 2010-11 season early. Here are seven other players whose return is critical to their teams' success.

Stamkos leads NHL's top 21-and-under talent

Thursday, 08.25.2011 / 12:10 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Hockey is a kids' game -- and in the NHL, those kids are making a lot of impact at a very young age.

In today's NHL, the premium put on finding young talent has resulted in players getting more opportunity and responsibility at an increasingly early age. With today's speed-oriented game, teams are more willing than ever to give their draft picks a chance at a younger age -- and that has led to a host of players 21 and under who've made an impact in their short time in the League.

Here's a look at 10 of the NHL's top players who will be 21 or younger when the puck drops on Oct. 6. We're not just rating potential here -- all of these players have played at least one full season in the NHL.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (21)
Stamkos won't turn 22 until February, but he already has an impressive resume that includes a 51-goal season and a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2009-10. His 96 goals are the most of any player in the NHL in the past two seasons, and the 45 he scored last season were second in the League. Tampa Bay signed him to a five-year contract this summer, and he's the cornerstone of a team that went from three straight playoff misses to within one goal of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Penguins celebrate 20th anniversary of '91 Cup

Tuesday, 08.23.2011 / 5:19 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

McMURRAY, Pa. -- The 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins were champions born out of a superstar's transformation from high scorer to big-game winner, a general manager's bold creativity and a coach's dogged determination to get it right the second time.

They were a team a character and characters, of great players beginning their careers and great ones winding them down. They were a constantly changing cast but also a constantly improving one, and by the time the playoffs began, they were certain that a franchise that had never won even a conference championship was ready to win the Stanley Cup.

The Penguins did it -- and then they did it again.


Hall looking to build off shortened rookie season

Monday, 08.22.2011 / 9:46 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Like any rookie, 2010's top draft pick, Taylor Hall, encountered a typically tough NHL debut. After recording a single assist in his first seven games, Hall struck for four points in a two-game span to close out October. From there, the young center showed flashes of brilliance, but it all ended on March 3rd, when a broken ankle sustained in a fight with Columbus' Derek Dorsett ended Hall's rookie campaign with a month left in the season.

Hall addressed the ankle, among other topics, on Monday at a 3-on-3 tournament organized by Montreal Canadiens' assistant coach Perry Pearn.

"My ankle healed up really well. It almost feels stronger than the other one, just because I worked on it so much," Hall told the Oilers' web site and other media Monday. "I haven't had any problems."

The ankle was a topic of conversation in North Edmonton on Monday, but it overshadowed what was an otherwise strong rookie season for the 19-year-old. Despite the injury, Hall led the Oilers in goals with 22 and finished just one point behind team leader Jordan Eberle's 43 points. But Hall was thinking about more than just statistics in stating his goals and objectives for the 2011-12 season.

Long offseason beneficial for Hossa

Monday, 08.22.2011 / 7:10 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- What has Marian Hossa been doing this summer?

Plenty of relaxing, to be sure -- like most players in the off-season -- but the Chicago Blackhawks star forward has also done a little bit of math in his downtime.

More specifically, Hossa has figured out just how many games he's played in the past three seasons -- which included back-to-back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final with three different teams, participation in the 2010 Winter Olympics plus this past season's marathon seven-game loss to the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs.

"The one player that I've talked a couple times to (this summer) was Marian Hossa, and he just talked about (how) he really needed this break to let his body recuperate," said Blackhawks Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman, who participated in Monday's charity Blackhawks Alumni Golf Outing at Medinah Country Club. "He's played so much hockey over the past three or four years, with all those long runs in the playoffs. I think he figured out that he's played almost an additional 100 games than most guys have played."

Some of the most unlikely seasons in NHL history

Monday, 08.22.2011 / 11:07 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Hockey players, like their counterparts in other sports, have a certain level of performance -- after a while, they usually perform within an expected range. But every now and then, a player will have a "fluke season," one that's so unlike the rest of his career that it sticks out. We're not talking about rookies or young players who flame out after a year or two, but about players with lengthy careers who have one season that's wildly outside their norm.

10 newcomers being counted on to make impact

Saturday, 08.20.2011 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

If there's one certainty in hockey, it's that the roster you finish the old season with in the spring won't be the same one you start the new one with in the fall. Teams are always looking for ways to improve, whether by making trades or signing free agents -- and a guy who was a square peg in a round hole with one team can turn out to be the missing piece of the puzzle in another.

Here are 10 players who are being counted on to make a major impact in their new homes.

Brad Richards
Center, 2010-11 SEASON STATS
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 49 | PTS: 77
SOG: 272 | +/-: 1
Brad Richards, New York Rangers -- Richards was a one-of-a-kind item in this year's free-agent market -- a real, honest-to-goodness No. 1 center. The Rangers gave him a nine-year, $60 million deal to come to the Big Apple with hopes that he'll provide them with a significant offensive upgrade. Their primary objective is to use Richards, one of the NHL's elite passers, to get the puck to Marian Gaborik, who fell to 22 goals last season after getting 42 in 2009-10 -- and to move the Rangers from a team battling to make the playoffs to one that can contend for the Cup.

A look at who's on the hot seat in the West

Thursday, 08.18.2011 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Vacation time is almost over. With teams less than a month from heading to training camp, here's a look at a player from each of the 15 teams in the Western Conference who'll be under pressure to perform as soon as the puck drops:

Jonas Hiller, Anaheim -- Few teams have the kind of top-end offensive talent that the Ducks can put on the ice every night. But all that offense won't mean a thing unless Hiller, an All-Star goaltender last season, is healthy and ready to go. Hiller missed most of the last two months with vertigo; he's spent the summer working to get well, but if he's not 100 percent, the Ducks' hopes of improving this season will take a big hit.

Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary -- Kiprusoff has played at least 71 games and won at least 35 of them in each of the last six seasons. But his save percentage last season dropped to .906 after he was at .920 in 2009-10 -- and he's been at .906 or below in three of the last four seasons. Kiprusoff will have to be better this season if the Flames hope to end a two-year playoff drought.

Eastern Conference players on the hot seat

Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 9:47 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Summer is in the home stretch. Teams are less than a month away from training camps.  It's almost time for another NHL season -- and the pressure is already starting to build for some players who know they'll have to be big-time producers for their teams to improve or contend in the upcoming season.

Here's a look at a player from each of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference who'll be under pressure to perform as soon as the puck drops:

David Krejci, Boston -- They may have won the Stanley Cup, but the Bruins still don't scare anyone offensively. Krejci tied for the team lead in scoring with just 62 points and scored only 13 goals -- just one more than he scored in the playoffs while leading all scorers with 23 points. As their No. 1 center, Krejci has to put up the kind of numbers he did in the postseason to give the Bruins the chance to repeat.
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Quote of the Day

I definitely think going back down helped me, I had a lot of confidence down there, I played a lot of minutes and I think that helped me a lot. With the 37 games up here, that gave me experience as well. I know what it takes to play in the NHL and now it's time for me to show that I'm capable of being a full-time NHL player.

— Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl on finishing the 2014-15 season in juniors after playing 37 games with Edmonton to begin the season