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NHL Insider

Kopitar, Gaborik searching for chemistry with Kings

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik were briefly neighbors in the popular town of Manhattan Beach, Calif., when Kopitar was remodeling a home earlier this season. It's a natural fit: The two are cut from the same cloth, elite European players who enjoy anonymity in Southern California.

But the buddy-movie notion of the two taking Kopitar's dog, Gustl, for a walk on the strand is slightly farfetched.

"We haven't gotten that far yet," Kopitar said.

That also might apply to their ongoing chemistry project this season for the Los Angeles Kings. After Gaborik and Kopitar clicked in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two will continue searching for that mesh when the Kings look to continue their climb up the Western Conference standings Wednesday at the Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

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Richards chasing Cup with Blackhawks after Rangers

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Brad Richards saw this kind of season coming for the New York Rangers back in 2011, when he chose to sign with them instead of multiple suitors as an unrestricted free agent.

But less than a year after helping New York advance to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, Richards will play at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday as the third-line center for the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN1).

The Rangers, who lead the NHL with 95 points, bought out the remaining six years of Richards' nine-year, $60 million contract last summer.

Richards signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks to continue his Stanley Cup quest, and said he harbors no hard feelings toward the Rangers.

"The only negative thing [in New York] was we were three wins away from winning a championship in an Original Six city, a great city, and that's why I was lucky enough to pick and choose this summer and come to an Original Six city here, a great historic franchise," said Richards, whose Rangers lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. "That's the only thing that's left out. It would have been nice to close the deal and do that, but a lot of players say that every year."

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Five things to watch when Blackhawks face Rangers

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

It may very well be a preview of the Stanley Cup Final when the New York Rangers host the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden. This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN1) features two of the top teams in the NHL, each of which seems primed to play deep into the spring.

With the Rangers atop the League standings and the Blackhawks battling for position in the Central Division, there's plenty at stake for each team.

Here are five things to watch between the Rangers and Blackhawks:

1. Who replaces St. Louis?

The Rangers recently lost defenseman Kevin Klein for 3-4 weeks because of an upper-body injury, and now they'll be without forward Martin St. Louis, who sustained a lower-body injury late in a 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday.

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Canucks honoring Quinn on St. Patrick's Day

Tuesday, 03.17.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- There weren't a lot of dry eyes at Rogers Arena after the Vancouver Canucks mourned the death of Pat Quinn on Nov. 25 with a moment of silence and a stirring rendition of "Danny Boy."

Now, almost four months after Quinn died at age 71 following a lengthy illness, the Canucks hope to replace the tears with smiles as they celebrate the life and legacy of Quinn, their beloved former coach, general manager and president on Tuesday.

It's hard to imagine a more fitting day to remember and honor Quinn.

Not only are the Canucks playing the Philadelphia Flyers, who Quinn started his coaching career with, but it is also St. Patrick's Day, the perfect time celebrate a man known affectionately as "The Big Irishman."

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Rutherford confident Penguins are ready for playoffs

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 5:45 PM / NHL Insider

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Pittsburgh Penguins may have lost a pair of home games in the span of 24 hours last weekend, but general manager Jim Rutherford believes they are ready for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A shutout loss to the Boston Bruins in a Saturday matinee, and a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in a nationally televised afternoon game on Sunday, sounded some alarm bells around a team which has struggled for consistency all season.

Rutherford, however, was not concerned when he arrived for the start of the spring installment of the NHL's general managers meetings. The Penguins are 39-20-10 and in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the New York Islanders with two games in hand. The Washington Capitals, which holds the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, is four points behind the Penguins.

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Trophy, playoff races among questions remaining

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 3:18 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

There are fewer than 200 games remaining in the 2014-15 NHL regular season and the only race remotely close to being decided is the one for first place in the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks have a 13-point lead.

The rest of the playoff chases and scoring races are still up for grabs. Home-ice advantage is on the line. Players are trying secure their candidacy for postseason awards. Ten teams are within eight points of the lead for the Presidents' Trophy.

So much still has to be decided and yet the days are quickly ticking off the calendar. So many questions still have to be answered, but why wait until April 11, the final day of the regular season, when all 30 teams are in action? Why can't we just answer the hot questions now?

Here are 15 important questions heading into the homestretch of the season, with some educated guesswork for the answers:

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Senators GM Murray saving lives through cancer fight

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 3:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- St. Louis Blues assistant coach Brad Shaw is proof of how Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray is saving lives by spreading awareness through the public battle he is waging against stage 4 colon cancer.

If not for Murray's honesty and forthrightness since being diagnosed in June, particularly in a video piece for TSN reported by Michael Farber, himself a cancer survivor, members of the Blues coaching and management staffs would not have scheduled themselves for colonoscopies during the NHL All-Star break in late January. That's where Shaw found out he had a golf-ball sized polyp on the wall of his colon that if undetected could have been life threatening.

Doctors told Shaw he should have the polyp removed immediately. He had surgery on Jan. 28 and was behind the Blues bench the next night coaching against the Nashville Predators.

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Sabres' Larsson, Varone shining in expanded roles

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 1:44 PM / NHL Insider

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Following the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2, the Buffalo Sabres' lineup took on a drastically different look. It also provided a big opportunity to a pair of young centers.

Johan Larsson and Philip Varone have seen playing time in Buffalo before this season, but after two trades at the deadline that saw forwards Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell sent to the Montreal Canadiens, as well as a lower-body injury sustained by All-Star center Zemgus Girgensons, Larsson and Varone were recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to fill those holes. Now they’re the Sabres' top two centers heading into their game Monday against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN1).

Larsson hasn't been a stranger to the Sabres lineup this season. He's been in Buffalo since he was recalled Feb. 15, but he was playing on the third and fourth lines. Now he's between Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis on the first line.

"It's a great opportunity. I can't ask for anything more," Larsson said. "I've just got to show it every day and work hard. If you play with those guys you have to work your [butt] off and show them you want to play with them."

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College hockey free agents set to garner attention

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

College hockey is in the postseason portion of its schedule with conference tournaments underway and, soon thereafter, the 2015 NCAA Tournament. That also means teams are seeing their seasons come to an end and, for those players who are not draft-eligible and still free agents, a chance to sign professional contracts.

Every season, a group of undrafted college free agents draw the attention of some NHL teams, and some end up getting contracts. Here are a few names to watch and ones that could draw attention:

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Crosby, Malkin pushing Penguins, each other

Sunday, 03.15.2015 / 10:40 AM / NHL Insider

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Questioning who is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ best player seems rhetorical.

The obvious answer would be forward Sidney Crosby, but the topic is up for debate. Not because of a significant drop in Crosby’s production, but because forward Evgeni Malkin has matched Crosby’s every step this season.

Crosby is widely considered the NHL's best player, but he has experienced a lackluster season by his standards. That despite leading the Penguins with 70 points and being two points behind the NHL lead entering their game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN).

"I think we try to help our team get momentum," Crosby said. "When [Malkin] goes out there, has a good shift and his line's buzzing around, we definitely want to follow it up and use that and continue that momentum and hopefully we can help each other. If we're out there and we have a good shift and we can wear the other team down, hopefully they can take advantage of that tired group.

"I think it's good. You want to have that healthy competition, but I think we definitely try to get the best out of one another."

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Quote of the Day

The last time I did it was 1994 and surprise, 20 years later it’s still working. I don’t do it very much, though. I don’t think I had it. I’m kind of surprised. It was probably because I went to church before the game.

Panthers veteran forward Jaromir Jagr on the move that produced his second goal in a 4-2 victory against the Senators on Sunday
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