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NHL Insider

Habs' Swiss import Diaz hopes to make team

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 7:37 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Que. -- Raphael Diaz looks to be beating the odds at Montreal Canadiens training camp.

When he was signed as a 25-year-old free agent out of Zug, it was widely assumed the reigning defenseman of the year in the Swiss League was pegged for the American Hockey League to learn the nuances of the North American game.

But with the Canadiens playing their final preseason game Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Quebec City, it looks as though Diaz has played himself into a top-six role, at least to start the season.

Suspended Wing feels 'terrible' about illegal hit

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 6:28 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Ben Smith and Brendan Smith aren't related, but now they share something other than a last name thanks to an illegal hit the latter delivered to the former in a preseason game earlier this week.

The Chicago Blackhawks' Ben Smith is still dealing with the physical ramifications of the shoulder-to-head blow at 5:26 of the third period in Wednesday's 4-3 victory over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. Meanwhile, the Red Wings' Brendan Smith is dealing with the punitive aftereffects of the collision -- not to mention his own remorse over what happened.

Brendan Smith, a top prospect, was suspended on Friday morning by NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan for the rest of Detroit's preseason games and five regular-season games, without pay. The hit he delivered landed his right shoulder directly to Ben Smith's head, which left the Chicago forward sprawled on the ice for a couple of minutes.

Kings to welcome Doughty with open arms

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 5:04 PM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- A big sigh of relief came over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday -- depending on who you asked.

While players said they never really were concerned about the absence of star defenseman Drew Doughty, coach Terry Murray conceded the obvious when asked about Doughty agreeing to an eight-year contract worth a reported $56 million late Thursday.

"It was in the front of my mind the whole training camp," Murray said. "He's a very important player. You know everybody's working very hard toward getting it resolved and that's the most important thing that you can hope for."

Where's the beef? On Colorado's blue line

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 4:57 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

"If you look at a team like the Boston Bruins, they were Stanley Cup champs last year, and they had a lot of size and grit on the back end. If you can have size and still have guys who can skate and move the puck and get it to the forwards, I think it's a good recipe for success." -- Shane O'Brien

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, Kyle Quincey was one of the beefier members of the Colorado Avalanche defense corps last season. That's hardly the case now.

When the Avalanche open the 2011-12 season on Oct. 8 against Detroit, the roster will include four defensemen who weigh 230-plus pounds.

"We're not going to be pushed around on the back end," Quincey told "That's a great thing."

Quincey was recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery on Feb. 18 when the Avalanche acquired 6-4, 232-pound Erik Johnson from St. Louis in a blockbuster trade that included four players and two draft picks. Exactly one month before Quincey was injured in a game against Washington, the Avalanche brought in Ryan O'Byrne (6-5, 234) from Montreal in exchange for prospect Michael Bournival.

Sharp healing, eyeing opening-night return

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 3:09 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- If it were up to him, Chicago Blackhawks star forward Patrick Sharp would lace up his skates for Friday's home preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Instead, he'll settle for participating in his first official team practice of the new season -- which he did Friday morning at the United Center. Sharp still is recovering from an emergency appendectomy performed Sept. 12, a few days before the start of training camp.

He still has stitches from the procedure, but told reporters after his post-practice conditioning work that he keeps healing steadily.

Who are the best Americans on Canadian teams?

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 1:04 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

With the recent retirement of Mike Modano, the NHL lost its greatest American-born player. Having put up 1,374 points in 1,499 regular-season games and 146 points in 176 playoff games, it's hard to argue that the seven-time All-Star and 1999 Stanley Cup champion is anything less than the best.

Of course, that leads many to wonder who the best active American-born player now is. That's the obvious discussion to have after Modano hung up the skates, but the last thing I enjoy is things that are obvious. What I want to know -- and this relates in no way to anything you just read about Modano -- is who is the best American-born player currently on a Canadian franchise.

There aren't many from which to choose, but that doesn't mean there aren't talented Americans lurking in the Great White North, scraping mayonnaise off their sandwiches and trying to figure out why Pink Panther movies are constantly on the French-language channels.

Here is one humble American's ranking of the six best U.S.-born players on Canadian franchises today:

Brewers' Morgan played junior hockey in Canada

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 12:21 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

In a sport with its share of quirky characters, there might not be a baseball player quite like Nyjer Morgan.

In his first season with the Milwaukee Brewers, the center fielder has established a number of career highs and will be playing in the postseason for the first time. He's had fun doing it, too, giving some of sport's most colorful post-game interviews and adopting nicknames like Tony Plush and Tony Tombstone. But before any of these alter-egos existed in baseball, Morgan was the junior hockey player known as Flash.

"I was Flash Morgan," he told "Skating around, I was fast, so everybody called me Flash Morgan."

Black and blue: Brown tops among U.S. hitters

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 11:46 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

There are times in the heat of battle when a big hit can provide just the impetus a team needs to begin a momentous charge.

For the last six seasons, American-born forward Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings has proven to be quite the momentum-changer. Since 2005-06, no player born in the United States has racked up more body checks than the 6-foot, 204-pound native of Ithaca, N.Y.

Last season, Brown finished third in the League and first among American-born players with 300 hits. He certainly made the most of those bumps and bruises, too.

Sharks following GM's orders perfectly

Friday, 09.30.2011 / 10:40 AM / NHL Insider

Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- A strong preseason doesn't guarantee wins once the real games begin, but undefeated is undefeated, and the Sharks appear to have heard general manager Doug Wilson's demand for a fast start this season loud and clear.

The Sharks improved to 5-0 Thursday with a 3-0 victory at HP Pavilion against the Vancouver Canucks, the team that beat them last season in the Western Conference Finals. They have one preseason game to go, Saturday at Phoenix. After that, they'll have six more days to fine-tune their revamped roster before opening the season Oct. 8 at home against the Coyotes.

For Sharks defenseman Jason Demers, that season-opener can't come soon enough.

Injuries could open up spot on Hawks for Saad

Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 3:55 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- On Wednesday morning, it still remained unclear how the Chicago Blackhawks could possibly keep impressive 18-year old rookie Brandon Saad with them to start the season.

Now the picture has become a little clearer, after injuries to forwards Viktor Stalberg, Ben Smith and Dave Bolland in a preseason game on Wednesday night against the rival Detroit Red Wings.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Stalberg (lower body) is expected to be out three weeks after an apparent leg-to-leg collision with a Red Wings player, while Smith and Bolland are day-to-day with upper-body injuries.

Quenneville said Bolland's injury isn't related to his concussion from late last season, while Smith appeared to be knocked unconscious in the third period on Wednesday by a big hit from Detroit rookie defenseman Brendan Smith that earned him a game misconduct.
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It's an incredible feeling just to see it go in and see the Joe go pretty crazy.  Ever since the introduction there, I was kind of feeling the nerves, and to put that one home, I started to feel comfortable and I thought my play started to pick up.

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