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NHL Insider

Bonus games impacting postseason chase

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 4:25 PM / NHL Insider

David Kalan - Staff Writer

Things may seem a bit odd for the Wild when they step on the ice at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, but the players can hardly be blamed for finding the surroundings unfamiliar. There was once a time when NHL teams played in every other team's building at least once a season, but the increase in divisional games and the expansion of the NHL from 21 to 30 teams over the past two decades has put an end to those days.

The Wild generally only find themselves in a particular Eastern Conference arena once every two years, and when they do it is often the only time they'll see that arena's home team that season, but that won't be the case tonight in New York. To fill out the 82-game schedule, every team has three cross-conference foes that it will face twice each year.


Bowman remains confident Hawks will find way

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 3:42 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Based on their tight schedule and upcoming four-game road trip Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gave his surging club a well-deserved day off Thursday. But General Manager Stan Bowman was in the office and he graciously gave time for a phone interview in the afternoon:
: After doing some analytics on your schedule going down the stretch, you have 18 games left, 11 on the road, and your opponents have an average winning percentage of .586 (as of Thursday). I guess you would have to agree that it isn't easy going down the stretch, right?

Bowman: No, no. We play a lot of the teams in the East, which is different. Whether it's good or bad, it's just unusual to have half your games out of conference. You can't take anything for granted, truthfully. It doesn't matter who you play, what their record is, whether it's home or away, you still have to go out there and do it. We're not taking anything for granted at this point.

Oilers embrace spoiler role as Blue Jackets visit

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 2:04 PM / NHL Insider

Robin Brownlee - Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Out of playoff contention or not, the Edmonton Oilers have something to play for in their remaining 18 games, starting against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place tonight.

While they are 15th in the Western Conference and 24 points out of eighth place, the Oilers are embracing the role of spoilers against teams scrambling for playoff spots, like Columbus. And there's more.

"Guys who put the jersey on from this point on, you're auditioning for either more opportunity in our organization or the opportunity, period, to be here," coach Tom Renney said.

Versteeg gets first shot at playing former team

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 12:56 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- When Kris Versteeg arrived in Toronto over the summer, he circled March 5 on his calendar. That's the only time this season the Maple Leafs will play his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, when Versteeg was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 14, he had to get a new calendar. On that one, the first day he circled was March 3.
"I said I was looking forward to the March 5 game against Chicago," Versteeg said following Thursday's morning practice here at Wells Fargo Center. "I played four years there, built a lot of friendships there, so now I guess we're going to turn the Chicago game into Toronto because this is the only time I'll get to play against a former team."


Break in schedule didn't mean a break for Flyers

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 12:45 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- It's not often that a four-day break comes up on the calendar at this point in the season, but Flyers coach Peter Laviolette wanted to take advantage of it.
After giving his players off Sunday, he spent the next three days putting them through high-speed, up-tempo practices, with heavy emphasis on conditioning drills, and also pushed them hard off the ice.
"You always expect the worst," forward Jody Shelley told following Thursday's morning practice here at Wells Fargo Center. "I think those expectations were met. It was a tough week."
Part of the reasoning for the hard practices was a chance for Laviolette to bring up his team's level of conditioning.


Sutter believes players buy-in has sparked surge

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 10:41 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Brent Sutter wasn't going to change his theories, even if it cost him his job as Calgary's head coach.
"I had to stay the course or else I wouldn't be standing in front of you guys right now," Sutter said after his Flames lost to Chicago 6-4 Wednesday here at the United Center.
Instead, Sutter had to wait for the resistance he was getting from his players to subside and hold out hope that the guys in the dressing room would start to hold one another accountable.
"If it's only coming from the coach, eventually it gets shut out," Sutter said. "At some point they have to do it inside the room."


Frolik delighted to contribute to Hawks' win

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 1:11 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO – The look of relief on Michael Frolik's face was unmistakable.
He'd just potted his first goal and point in 10 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and first marker in 33 games dating back to the last time he'd scored on Dec. 17 for the Florida Panthers. It happened with just 1:35 left in the first period of Wednesday night's 6-4 win against the Calgary Flames, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead and momentum heading into the first intermission.
It also gave Frolik a reason to smile – knowing his frustrating scoring slump was over.
"I feel so much lighter," said Frolik, who was acquired by Chicago in a Feb. 9 trade that sent forward Jack Skille to Florida. "At first I was like, 'Whew! Finally it went in.' It was a good feeling. I haven’t had that feeling for a long time, so it was good."

Devils' Parise ready to resume skating

Wednesday, 03.02.2011 / 6:29 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the first time in five months, New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise can once again lace on the blades.
Parise received the positive news after visiting with Dr. Anthony Miniaci, the surgeon who performed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, at the Cleveland Clinic on Wednesday. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello relayed the news to the media at Prudential Center prior to Wednesday night's matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Zach met with the physician today and I spoke to the physician and Zach this afternoon and he's fine," Lamoriello said. "He can begin skating lightly, immediately. He certainly isn't where he has to be with the strength of his leg, which should be another three weeks to get to where it should be. But he'll skate on his time for a minimum 2-3 weeks."
It remains to be seen whether or not Parise, who suffered his injury on Oct. 30 in a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, will even return this season.

Campoli looks to be perfect fit with Hawks

Wednesday, 03.02.2011 / 3:15 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Chris Campoli still is a little caught up in the whirlwind of being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, but he's ready to get on the ice for his new team.
He'll get the chance to do that Wednesday at the United Center, when Chicago hosts the Calgary Flames in a big game between teams separated by just one point in the Western Conference standings.
After leaving Ottawa and last place in the Eastern Conference, the puck-moving Campoli is looking forward to joining a heated playoff race -- not to mention a talented corps of puck-moving defensemen.
"It was a completely different atmosphere (in Ottawa)," Campoli said following Chicago's morning skate Wednesday. "In Canada, there's a lot of passion for the game, so that's there, but the confidence and the buzz around the (Senators) and lack of success in Ottawa this year kind of deflates that. Here, there's so much excitement. Winning the (Stanley) Cup last year and having another successful season this year, it's exciting to be a part of that. It's a great town, great team and a great group of guys. I just want to fit in well and help us."


Change in lines has Hawks playing best hockey

Wednesday, 03.02.2011 / 2:04 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Comments from around the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room suggest the reasons for their current five-game win streak range from chemistry on the new lines and defensive pairings to keeping things simple, and of course, to the ridiculously torrid scoring tear that captain Jonathan Toews is on.

"The easiest thing to say is we're just bearing down. I don't want to say you're not focused in the middle of the season or early in the season, but right now everybody realizes the importance of the situation we're in and it seems like every game is a must-win. I think we're just bearing down, more focused and more concentrated on one game at a time. That's probably been the key to the success." -- Patrick Kane

Yet the one factor that trumps all of them is the focus and wherewithal the Blackhawks have been playing with. They don't want to join the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes and 1996 New Jersey Devils as Stanley Cup champs that failed to make the playoffs the next season, so they're playing with some serious purpose right now.

"The easiest thing to say is we're just bearing down," Patrick Kane told "I don't want to say you're not focused in the middle of the season or early in the season, but right now everybody realizes the importance of the situation we're in and it seems like every game is a must-win. I think we're just bearing down, more focused and more concentrated on one game at a time. That's probably been the key to the success."

The Blackhawks feel they've never been better this season than they are right now. Kane said the feeling they had last season, when they would show up for a game thinking there was no way they were going to lose, almost is back.
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Quote of the Day

I loved being in the jerseys again and they worked some magic for us. It was weird in warm-ups, seeing No. 22 in that jersey and thinking he’s [Mike Gartner], and No. 8 reminds you of Danny Briere … every number had me thinking back to the guys who wore them and smiling.

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan on wearing Kachina-style throwback jerseys in a 3-2 victory against the Canucks on Thursday