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NHL Insider

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).

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."


Last year's also-rans having unprecedented success

Wednesday, 10.20.2010 / 9:46 AM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

Perhaps you've read the headline and become upset with the premise of the story. "Why is this guy breaking out his Jump To Conclusions Mat on Oct. 20?" After all, no one likes a premature prognosticator.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who haven't made the postseason since 2003-04, are 4-0-1 and sit atop the Northeast Division. The Dallas Stars are 4-1-0 after missing the playoffs the past two seasons. The once-downtrodden Tampa Bay Lightning are 4-1-0 under new coach Guy Boucher and new GM Steve Yzerman.

But it's not just those three teams turning things around. The 14 teams who missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season are having unprecedented success this season and history has shown they have reason to believe they can stay there.

It's quite the amazing turnaround. The proof is in the numbers:

The overall record of last season's 16 playoff teams: 40-35-12 (1.06 points per game)


Lucic, Bruins have regained their scoring touch

Tuesday, 10.19.2010 / 11:58 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

WASHINGTON -- Already armed with a goal and an assist, Milan Lucic swears he didn't seek out the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in the third period Tuesday night.

"Fights, you don't really go around looking for them," he said. "They just kind of happen."

If his bout with Capitals defenseman John Erskine at 9:23 of the third period wasn't planned, then that's fine. But it did give the Bruins' power forward the second Gordie Howe of his career -- and it capped off a fine night for him and the Bruins, who jumped out to an early lead and held on to win 3-1 at Verizon Center for their third straight victory.

"Like I said, it just happens, obviously," Lucic said. "I'm happy with the way I played and the way we played as a line and the way the team played. We're getting great goaltending, the d-men are doing a great job with all six of them playing the way they need to play, and every line is doing what they need to do to contribute."

Ovechkin can't shake Bruins in Caps' 3-1 loss

Tuesday, 10.19.2010 / 11:30 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Bruce Boudreau got creative trying to find his star some open ice. On this night, it didn't matter what strategy the Washington Capitals coach came up with.

The Boston Bruins became the first NHL team to hold Alex Ovechkin without a point this season in a 3-1 victory Tuesday night at Verizon Center.

"He wasn't [getting his shots through]," Boudreau said. "Sometimes you have tougher nights than others. I thought his effort was there. I just didn't think things were going well for that whole line."

Ovechkin put four shots on net in the final period, but only one of his nine attempts in the first two periods reached Boston netminder Tim Thomas. He nearly connected with Mike Knuble on a one-timer and what might have been an easy goal in the opening seconds of the game, but the puck hopped over Knuble's stick and away from danger.

Bruins' three-week journey finally at an end

Tuesday, 10.19.2010 / 3:05 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"I'm a road warrior. Not because I like to be away from my family, but I just enjoy playing in other arenas. I sort of like being the hated guy in opposing arenas."
-- Bruins goalie Tim Thomas

Boston is one of the nicer places to be during the fall season. After Tuesday, the Bruins will get to discover it for themselves.

When the final horn sounds ending Tuesday's game in Washington, the Bruins -- finally -- will return home to get ready for a game at TD Garden. When the Capitals arrive Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), it will mark the first time the Bruins will have played at home since a preseason game there Sept. 29.

In the interim, they will have played six games in three countries on two continents, going from Boston to Belfast to the Czech Republic to New Jersey to Washington and finally back to Boston.

Pavelec back at practice, condition 'nothing serious'

Tuesday, 10.19.2010 / 2:35 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent

DULUTH, Ga. -- Speaking to a throng of reporters for the first time since he fainted during the Atlanta Thrashers' season opener on Oct. 8 and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher, goalie Ondrej Pavelec talked about how excited he was to practice with the team again and how his medical condition was "nothing serious."
"They said (there are) so many reasons why it happens and they couldn't find it," he said. "But they said a lot of times it never happen again. Hopefully, it will never happen again."
Pavelec was taken to the hospital for observation and stayed two nights while undergoing testing. Upon his release, he returned the next day. His tests included a four-hour MRI and testing on his brain and heart but everything came up negative.


Julien opts for Thomas against Capitals

Tuesday, 10.19.2010 / 1:12 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

WASHINGTON -- Boston coach Claude Julien has decided to walk through the door with the hot handle, so he'll start Tim Thomas in goal Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2, RIS) against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.

Thomas has won both of his starts this season, stopping 60 of 61 shots in the process (0.50 goals-against average, .984 save percentage). He's the hot goalie, so Julien is going to ride him at least through the first half of this home-and-home set with the Capitals.

Tuukka Rask will have to wait at least one more game before getting back in the net. He hasn't played since Oct. 9 against Phoenix in Prague, where he gave up four goals on 36 shots.


Patrick a Sharp-shooter for Hawks

Monday, 10.18.2010 / 2:21 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

"He's got a great stick. He's a goal scorer, but he seems to know that area around the net and gets rewarded around there. That was a nice play by (Kopecky) on the winning goal, but (Sharp) was in the right spot."
-- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Patrick Sharp

CHICAGO -- His nickname is "Shooter" and Patrick Sharp has a dog by the same name.
There is a reason for both, namely that Sharp has never met a shot he doesn't like. The Chicago Blackhawks would like him to keep shooting, too, especially considering how often the puck's been going in for Sharp of late.
He's netted 2 goals in each of the last two games and has 5 for the season -- which has him tied with three other players, including teammate Marian Hossa, for the NHL lead as the Hawks prepare to play Central Division rival St. Louis tonight.
What's his secret?

Late-game heroics dominate early season contests

Monday, 10.18.2010 / 9:50 AM / NHL Insider


High drama appears to be the flavor of the day so far in this very young 2010-11 season.
After Sunday's games, there have been 68 games played this season. Amazingly, 25 of those games have been tied with 10 minutes left in regulation. Last season, through the same number of games, it was just 15 tied contests with 10 minutes remaining.

To make things even more exciting, NHL teams have seemed intent on breaking the preponderance of last-game ties.

Almost a quarter of the 25 games (six) have seen a go-ahead goal in the final five minutes of regulation, compared to just four at the same point last season. In half of those six games, the go-ahead goal has come in the final 180 seconds of regulation, a feat that happened just one time in the season's first 68 games last season.

Montreal already has done the trick twice this season. On Nov. 9, Scott Gomez scored with 1:48 left to break a tie and give the Canadiens a 3-2 win against Pittsburgh. Ironically, Michael Cammalleri had scored 24 seconds before Gomez to tie that game. Saturday, Tomas Plekanec scored with 3:59 remaining to give Montreal a 4-3 win against rival Ottawa.

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Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players