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NHL Insider

Wings not pleased despite good start to season

Thursday, 10.21.2010 / 2:55 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

"When you've been around the game for awhile, you understand what wave after wave is, and going after people and what winning every night is."
-- Detroit coach Mike Babcock

DETROIT – Looking at the standings, it seems like the Detroit Red Wings are off to the kind of start they were looking for at 3-1-1 in the first five games.
 
Looking at their faces and listening to their words following Thursday's morning skate prior to tonight's home game against Calgary was a different story. The Wings will take their seven points, but they are far from happy about the way they've gotten it done.
 
This is a team loaded with talent, experienced veterans and a starting goalie in Jimmy Howard who's got a dazzling 1.59 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in three games. They're supposed to put the pressure on opposing defenses and know they're probably going to win every time they come to play a game.
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Flyers not getting contributions from defensemen

Thursday, 10.21.2010 / 2:33 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"I don't think it's just on the back end, I think it's our whole team in general. It certainly hasn't been talked about that much. We'd like to chip in more offensively when we can, but I think the positive out of that is we haven't been giving up too much defensively either."
-- Matt Carle

PHILADELPHIA - On the way to earning their third straight playoff appearance by the skin of their teeth last season, the Philadelphia Flyers were a pretty dynamic offensive group.
 
The club would finish eighth in the League with a 2.83 goals per game average while averaging 31.6 shots. This season, it seems they've struggled out of the gate to regain that offensive edge, particularly from the defensive end.
 
Through five games in 2009-10, Flyers' defensemen totaled 3 goals, 18 assists and 21 points, nine on the power play, on the way to a 3-1-1 start. In the team's sub-par 2-2-1 start to the 2010-11 campaign, the back end has accounted for just two assists and a minus-2 rating.

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Oilers demote Hall, but just to third line

Thursday, 10.21.2010 / 2:23 PM / NHL Insider

Robin Brownlee - NHL.com Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers rookie Taylor Hall will play on the third line against the Minnesota Wild at Rexall Place on Thursday night, although coach Tom Renney isn't framing it as a demotion.

Hall, who has one assist through his first four games playing with veteran center Shawn Horcoff, will play left wing with center Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule.

"There's a burden there, an expectation when you play with Horcoff," Renney said. "He's a more veteran player and you have to measure up to that standard, if you will. Maybe this will give Taylor an opportunity to be part of the personality of a line."

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Brodeur leads struggling Devils into Montreal

Thursday, 10.21.2010 / 1:22 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL – The New Jersey Devils, and Martin Brodeur in particular, have a history of waltzing into Montreal and laying a spanking on the Canadiens.

But these aren't your average Devils.

Coming off a 1-4-1 start to the season marked by injuries and inconsistent play, the Devils limp into Montreal for Thursday night's tilt at the Bell Centre desperate for a turnaround.

And there's no better place for it to happen than here, especially when it comes to the native son Brodeur.

"Since I've been here he always seems to save his best games for here, for whatever reason," Devils winger Zach Parise said Thursday after an optional morning skate. "I don't want to put any pressure on the guy, but you kind of expect it."
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'Bag skates' making early rounds across NHL

Thursday, 10.21.2010 / 10:50 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Add Ottawa's Cory Clouston to this year's list of NHL coaches who decided the best way to get his team's attention was the dreaded "bag skate."

With the Senators off to a disappointing 1-4-1 start, Clouston put his troops through a tough practice Wednesday that ended with a bag skate -- a series of repetitive skating drills and sprints in which there's nary a puck to be found.

If you've ever watched "Miracle," you might know bag skates as "Herbies" -- think of Team USA coach Herb Brooks yelling "again" as his players did skating drills and you'll get the idea. A bag skate was also part of the plot in "D2: The Mighty Ducks," when Gordon Bombay, the character played by Emilio Estevez, grinds his young players through skating drills after a bad game.

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Caps haven't had to choose between goalies so far

Thursday, 10.21.2010 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- An injury for Semyon Varlamov allowed Michal Neuvirth to start the first few games of the 2010-11 season in net for the Washington Capitals. Neuvirth performed so well that coach Bruce Boudreau kept starting him even when Varlamov was ready to return.
 
But just as Varlamov's inability to join the pending goalie competition yielded playing time for Neuvirth, the roles may now be reversed. Neuvirth left Washington's game Tuesday night against Boston in the first period complaining of dizziness and a headache, and a team official said he had the flu.
 
Neuvirth said he did not feel well after completing practice Wednesday, so Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau may not have to choose between his 22-year-old netminders Thursday night when his team plays the Bruins at TD Garden.

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Offense aplenty with Stamkos, Tavares on ice

Thursday, 10.21.2010 / 1:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Two of the game's brightest young stars will share the same ice Thursday at the St. Pete Times Forum.
 
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, the first pick of the 2008 Entry Draft who tied for the League lead with 51 goals last season, and New York Islanders center John Tavares are set to go head-to-head in the first of four meetings in 2010-11. Tavares, the No. 1 pick from the 2009 Draft, led the Isles with 54 points last season.
 
And in a refreshing change from last season, both teams are off to solid starts. The Lightning, behind Stamkos' team-leading 5 goals and 9 points, have won four of their first five games and are tied for first place with Washington in the Southeast Division. Tampa Bay won a total of four games in regulation in October in 2009-10 en route to missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season.
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Ovechkin relishes opportunity to battle Chara

Wednesday, 10.20.2010 / 3:03 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Ovechkin vs. Chara

Ovechkin vs. Chara (Click image to enlarge)

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin is rare because of his mix of power and skill, but also because he actually looks forward to the opportunity to go up against the towering Zdeno Chara, Boston's 6-foot-9 captain.

"It's a challenge," Ovechkin said Wednesday. "Not just for me, but for everybody."

Chara was on Ovechkin for nearly every shift through the two periods Tuesday, and he held the Capitals' superstar to one shot on goal. When the Bruins switched Chara to play against Alexander Semin in the third, putting their top line of Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci against Ovechkin's line, No. 8 managed to get off four shots in nearly 10 minutes of ice time.

But it's likely that with the last change in Thursday's game, Ovi will be seeing a heck of a lot of the Bruins' big captain again. He's smiling about that.

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Kopecky playing role on top line to perfection

Wednesday, 10.20.2010 / 3:03 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

"I know my job on that line. I know what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to get pucks for them and give them the puck. They're world-class players. All I have to do is skate hard to the net. If we keep sticks on the ice, then good things are going to happen." -- Tomas Kopecky on skating on a line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews

CHICAGO -- When you play on a line with guys like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, it's usually best to keep your own game pretty basic.
 
Chicago Blackhawks forward Tomas Kopecky is finding that out the easy way this season by doing some heavy lifting for the team's top line, which has 9 goals and 23 points combined coming into Wednesday night's game at United Center against Vancouver.
 
It's a game that could feature a lot of offense from both teams. The Canucks' Sedin twins -- Daniel and Henrik -- are both in the top five in scoring, while Hossa leads the League with 7 goals and 11 points for Chicago.
 
The Hawks also have Patrick Sharp tied for second in goals (6) and sixth in points (8), and he's scored three-straight game-winning goals. Scan down the list a little bit, and Kopecky is No. 11 in scoring (1 goal, 7 assists).
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Caps successfully change how they kill penalties

Wednesday, 10.20.2010 / 2:53 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- With the offensive firepower they have in Alex Ovechkin and Co., how is it that the Washington Capitals are creating noise by what they're doing on the penalty kill?

Well, when you go from 25th in the NHL last season to perfection so far this season, it's going to get noticed.

The Capitals will eventually give up a power-play goal, perhaps as soon as Thursday's game in Boston (7 p.m., NHL-N, CSN-DC, NESN), but their run of 25 straight kills is the most unexpected statistic they've put up so far this season. In the five seasons since the work stoppage their PK has ranked 23rd or lower four times, and they were No. 17 in 2008-09.

"The penalty-kill guys are blocking the shots, keeping the puck out, playing hard," said captain Alex Ovechkin, who watches the PK guys work from the bench and benefits from the momentum they create with a kill. "If we need to kill it we know those guys are going to kill it. Our coaching staff has done a great job with the system that we have to play on the penalty kill."

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I just think about how much it hurts. The feelings aren't going to go away, probably never. It's just something that sticks with you for a long time.

— San Jose forward Logan Couture to The Canadian Press on the Sharks' first-round loss to the Kings after taking a 3-0 series lead