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NHL Insider

Gretzky not ready to return to hockey

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 10:37 PM / NHL Insider

Wayne Gretzky may be hockey's most famous free agent -- and he plans to stay that way.

Gretzky, now 50, hasn't been connected with the NHL or any of its teams since he severed ties with the Phoenix Coyotes prior to the 2009-10 season. He told TSN's Darren Dreger that while some teams have approached him about an executive role, he's not ready right now.

"Edmonton and Los Angeles have been really great to me and I have a nice relationship with both Kevin [Lowe] and the Oilers and obviously Dean Lombardi and the Kings, and I'm really honest with them. Right now, it's not the time for me to jump back into the game," explained Gretzky.

Lidstrom excited by Scandinavian TV deal

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 7:26 PM / NHL Insider

Count Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom among the European players excited by Thursday's announcement that the National Hockey League finalized a broadcast rights deal with Modern Times Group (MTG) that allows access across Scandinavia to every NHL game live via television, mobile and broadband for the next five seasons.

"I know my dad is very happy -- he's been calling me there the last few weeks and asking, 'We can't find our hockey games.' He follows all our games, even though they start sometimes in the middle of the night. They'll get up and watch the games," Lidstrom said while appearing as a guest on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman."

Commodore patiently awaits his turn with Wings

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 7:13 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- There is a word Mike Commodore is using these days that admittedly didn’t enter his vocabulary much a few years ago.

“Patience is the key word,” said Commodore, a 31-year old free-agent addition by the Detroit Red Wings who’s recovering from a preseason knee sprain. “It’s not a bad situation for me. I just need to stay patient and make sure I’m ready when the opportunity comes.”

That’s because the situation in Detroit has changed since the time Commodore left a game at the United Center in the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks. At the time, it looked like he had the inside track over 24-year-old Jakub Kindl for the role of sixth defenseman.

Since Commodore’s been out, Kindl has thrived while teamed with 27-year old Jonathan Ericsson as the Wings’ third D-pairing. Detroit now appears to have one of the deepest defense corps in the League from top to bottom despite Brian Rafalski’s retirement and not bringing in a high-priced free agent. 

Big day for Stewart family as brothers finally face off

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 6:45 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The day Anthony Stewart came back home from his Ontario Hockey League team, the Kingston Frontenacs, and watched his 6-foot-2, 260-pound brother Chris playing a pickup hockey game, he immediately knew he had to take an initiative.

It was Anthony Stewart, the oldest of Norman and Susan Stewart's seven children, who felt like he needed to push younger brother Chris to the ice and away from the gridiron, even though Chris excelled in football. It was Chris Stewart, a multitalented athlete growing up, who made the choice of walking away from the ice when he was 14. Anthony guided his little brother toward what turned out to be a career choice when Chris was just 16.

"He was a natural athlete," Anthony said of Chris. "He was just a little heavy and was playing football. He had a couple offers for collegiate football. But I watched a pickup game of his and he had really good hands and he was actually really fast. 

Sharks hope Havlat's speed will boost offense

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 4:26 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- He's only missed four games, but Martin Havlat has been eagerly anticipating his Sharks debut. It'll finally happen Friday night at Prudential Center against the Devils.

"Marty will play," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after Thursday's practice here. "That's what I've been told and the doctors cleared him. If anything changes between now and then it will be a surprise to everyone."

Havlat had surgery on his left shoulder in May to repair a torn labrum, an injury he suffered while playing for the Czech Republic in the IIHF World Championship. The Sharks knew he was still recovering when they acquired him via trade from Minnesota on July 3, but have waited patiently for the speedy right wing to get himself back to 100 percent.

Havlat visited his surgeon in Cleveland on Wednesday and was given the green light.

First weeks find numerous 18-year-olds making impact

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 3:49 PM / NHL Insider

Davis Harper - Staff Writer

Even as the NHL learning curve has steepened in recent years -- a faster game requiring supreme technical ability -- some players continue to ascend to the upper regions of the sport much sooner than their peers.

The contingent of these instant-impact freshmen is getting younger and younger, as evidenced by this year’s crop of 18-year-olds already making their mark around the League.

No. 1 pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has met -- and maybe even exceeded -- lofty preseason expectations by putting up point-per-game numbers for the Edmonton Oilers with 4 goals and 1 assist through five games. In his first NHL game, he tallied a game-tying goal in regulation in a shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, then bagged a hat trick in a losing effort against the Vancouver Canucks. Nugent-Hopkins is already outpacing the No. 1 pick from 2010 -- teammate Taylor Hall, who had just a goal and an assist during the same period last season.

Dineen will see familiar faces coaching against Sabres

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 2:34 PM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kevin Dineen has been both excited and proud to see some of his former AHL players enjoying success in the NHL. For tonight at least, he wants that to stop.

Dineen will be facing six players he coached in Portland over the past three years when his Florida Panthers take on the Buffalo Sabres at the BankAtlantic Center.

"It's great," said Dineen, who's in his first season as Panthers coach. "I really enjoyed watching players that I had and (see the) progress they've had in their career. It's been great to follow their success and their rise to the NHL. Obviously, they have really contributed to the Sabres' early success."

The six Dineen-coached players who will suit up for Buffalo on Thursday night are left wings Luke Adam, Tyler Ennis and Matt Ellis, center Nathan Gerbe, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani and backup goalie Jhonas Enroth.

Penguins' defense gets lift with Orpik return

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 2:17 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Finally, some good injury news for the black-and-blue Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins, playing with a badly depleted lineup, will welcome back defenseman Brooks Orpik tonight when they meet the Montreal Canadiens at Consol Energy Center. Orpik, the Penguins' most physical defenseman and a proven shutdown specialist, missed all of the preseason and the first eight regular-season games after having abdominal surgery during the offseason.

"It's been a long time waiting, that's for sure," Orpik said.

The rest of the Penguins' lineup, however, remains thinned. Center Evgeni Malkin will sit out a fourth consecutive game due to right knee soreness, and forward Tyler Kennedy (concussion) will miss his third in a row. He won't return until he is symptom-free.

Defenseman Brian Strait, recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) when Kris Letang drew a two-game suspension for a boarding violation, hyperextended an elbow in Minnesota on Tuesday and is out indefinitely. Letang will serve the second game of his suspension tonight meaning that, even with Orpik in uniform, the Penguins are down to six defensemen.

Capitals vs. Flyers: A point, counterpoint breakdown

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 9:49 AM / NHL Insider "experts" Corey Masisak and Adam Kimelman decided to break down the big matchup Thursday between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers. Masisak has covered the Capitals regularly for the past several seasons, while Kimelman has written two books on the Flyers and has followed the team for more than three decades. Things might have gotten a little heated, but it was all in good fun. We think.

Adam, it is time for you to take down that shrine to Ryan Howard's Achilles' tendon and put on that game-used Mikael Renberg sweater because the Beasts of the East (regular season, of course) are coming to Philadelphia for the biggest game of this young season.

The Washington Capitals have a bit of a different look to them this season. The defense is deeper, the crop of role players up front has been rotated and they have a goalie who needs to shave more than once a week.

They're also invading the City of Brotherly Love while sporting a perfect 5-0-0 record and look poised to claim the top seed in the conference for the third consecutive season. Your Flyers are also off to a strong start, boasting a 4-0-1 mark and nine points. That's the third-most in the conference behind Washington and Pittsburgh, though it feels like the Penguins have played a couple of doubleheaders so far this season.

Islanders need more from other lines

Wednesday, 10.19.2011 / 7:01 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders are off to a 3-1-0 start, but they know they need more of an all-hands-on-deck approach if they're going to enjoy continued success.

New York was victorious three times during its season-opening, four-game homestand mainly due to the heroics of center John Tavares (5 goals, 3 assists) and goaltender Al Montoya (2-1-0, 1.35 goals-against average, .953 save percentage).

But with the Islanders heading south for a pair of games in the Sunshine State, coach Jack Capuano would like to see more from his second and third lines. Frans Nielsen, Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo have combined for a pair of goals and an assist, while the trio of Josh Bailey, Brian Rolston and Blake Comeau has yet to score. Rolston is the lone player from the Isles' third line with a point and Comeau was a healthy scratch for last Saturday's 4-2 win against the Rangers. 
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