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NHL Insider

Canadiens use time off to change power play

Wednesday, 01.14.2015 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- Being a hockey coach here is not always easy. In fact, it rarely is.

The Montreal Canadiens enter their game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday with a 26-12-3 record and have been at or near the top of the Eastern Conference standings for most of the season. Yet the Canadiens have been consistently poor on the power play, and in Montreal, that one glaring weakness tends to grab a lot of attention.

Coach Michel Therrien made some changes to the power play Monday and Tuesday at practice, in personnel and system. Considering the power play has been consistently unproductive for more than a calendar year without any significant adjustments, it was not surprising this became big news, even without an explanation from Therrien.

"I'm not going to start analyzing the changes," Therrien said. "First of all, as a coach, you want to keep those things private. We're in Montreal, we're a big market. Practices are getting analyzed on TV, and it's not fun for a coach. You want to make adjustments, and you're watching the news and people are trying to analyze the new strategy that you want to have. It can be tough at times. So I'm not going to start to elaborate on the changes."

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Five things to watch when Capitals face Flyers

Wednesday, 01.14.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Washington Capitals battled inconsistency earlier this season while trying to get accustomed to new coach Barry Trotz, but it now looks as though they're going to be in the mix for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs right until the very end.

Trotz and the Capitals are 13-1-4 in their past 18 games (they've outscored the opposition 57-34 over that span) and have moved within two points of second place in the Metropolitan Division heading into this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA, SN1).

"I don't believe it's a hot streak," Trotz said. "A hot streak is when you're winning games when you're not supposed to. I think our consistency has been good. Our commitment and our detail have been good. We're not just a team having a good month."

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Goalie Holtby's confidence inspiring Capitals

Wednesday, 01.14.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Vingan - NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. – When playing at peak performance, Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby oozes a steely confidence, each kick of the leg and flip of the glove accentuated with a subtle flair.

Coach Barry Trotz recognizes that self-assurance in goal, which has seeped into the mentality of Holtby's teammates.

"You have a strut, whatever you want to call it," Trotz said. "You have a little swagger. That's the one position in our sport that can do that.

"You see it with Braden. His play has been stellar and so has our play."

Holtby is scheduled to make his 20th consecutive start and franchise-record 26th straight appearance in NBC's Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN1). In his previous 19 starts, Holtby is 13-2-4 with a 2.09 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and two shutouts.

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Rangers rue missed chances in loss to Islanders

Tuesday, 01.13.2015 / 10:50 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- When you win five straight and 13 of your past 14 games, there's no doubt you need some bounces along the way.

In the first period at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, the New York Rangers didn't get any breaks against the New York Islanders. It played a huge role in what turned out to be a 3-0 loss.

With a chance to pull within three points of the first-place Islanders in the Metropolitan Division, the Rangers came out buzzing. They were doing all the right things and generated several quality scoring chances, none better than the two they had seconds apart late in the first period.

About eight minutes after Mats Zuccarello's one-timer hit the post, Rick Nash made a power move around Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy and let go a wrist shot that beat goalie Jaroslav Halak but hit the far post. The puck caromed right out to the slot for Derick Brassard, who managed to hit each post on his chance.

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Rangers have found consistency after slow start

Tuesday, 01.13.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

For the first two months of the 2014-15 season, the conversation coming out of the New York Rangers dressing room focused on their search for consistency. Injuries and illness, particularly on defense, made it difficult for the Rangers to play the way they want to play, meaning a low-risk, high-reward game built on speed through the neutral zone backed by superior goaltending.

Consistency, like the health of their defensemen, is no longer a problem. Watch the Rangers now and it looks like they're playing in fast forward. They're playing at a breakneck speed, particularly when they transition from defense to offense. The results have been staggering.

The Rangers have won five games in a row and 13 of their past 14 heading into their game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Last week, the Rangers became the third team since 2000-01, and first since the Buffalo Sabres in 2011-12, to sweep the three California teams in the same season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

With a regulation win Tuesday, the Rangers can move within three points of first place in the Metropolitan Division; they were 12 points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and Islanders on Dec. 8, when they defeated the Penguins in overtime to start their current hot streak.

Here are five reasons why the Rangers have found the consistency they were looking for in the first two months of the season:

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Stars' Spezza ready for first game against Senators

Monday, 01.12.2015 / 7:50 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Stevenson - NHL.com Correspondent

Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza will face the Ottawa Senators for the first time Tuesday after asking for and receiving a trade last summer from the city where he played 11 seasons, the last of which as captain.

Spezza told reporters Monday he's glad the first time he will face his former team is in Dallas rather than Canadian Tire Centre. He will return to Ottawa with the Stars on Jan. 29. Spezza had 687 points in 686 games for the Senators.

"I don't think it's that bad them coming here. It kind of feels like it's on your turf," said Spezza, who has seven goals and 22 assists in 41 games for the Stars. "Going to Ottawa is going to be strange for sure, walking into the building and walk into the visiting room and all that.

"It's nice to catch up. I saw some of the guys [Sunday] and I'll catch up with a few more guys. It's different when it's on your terms and in your rink. It'll be different when I go back to Ottawa though, for sure."

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Six biggest surprises from season's first half

Sunday, 01.11.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

With the first half of the 2014-15 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of its biggest storylines and award contenders.

At the beginning of each season NHL fans will make predictions on what the ensuing season will look like, from where their favorite team will finish in the standings to who will lead the League in scoring to which team will win the Stanley Cup.

Some predictions are easy to make; saying the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks would be among the NHL's top teams really isn't much of a stretch.

But some things have happened during the first half of the 2014-15 season that no one could have seen coming.

Here are six of the biggest surprises of the first half:

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Selanne set to be first jersey retired by Ducks

Sunday, 01.11.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- The ceremony is supposed to start Sunday at 4:15 p.m. PT, but that might as well be written in pencil given how long it takes Teemu Selanne to get from place to place.

Selanne gladly stops to sign autographs or chat with fans, no matter the time or place, and he's had trouble making appearances on time this week leading up to his jersey retirement ceremony. About 100 fans showed up Thursday when word got out that Selanne was at Honda Center, and of course he didn't leave until every fan got their moment with him.

"That's why I'm always late," Selanne said.

Selanne's accessibility is as much a part of his legacy as his playing career, and his popularity makes him the overwhelming choice to be the first player in Anaheim Ducks history to have his jersey retired, a scant eight months after he retired at 43.

"It's very special," Selanne said. "Obviously, it's a good start for the culture and history of this franchise. There's going to be many others after that. Being first, it's going to be great."

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Islanders' Okposo, Capuano reflect on J.P. Parise

Friday, 01.09.2015 / 2:04 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Former New York Islanders forward J.P. Parise, who died of lung cancer on Wednesday, is certainly on the minds and hearts of current players and coaches of the team.

Coach Jack Capuano and a few players discussed Parise's legacy following the Islanders optional skate Friday at Prudential Center, where they will play the New Jersey Devils.

Forward Kyle Okposo, who played for J.P. Parise at Shattuck-St. Mary's school in Minnesota in 2004-05, will always remember his smile and guidance.

"J.P. was a good man; I first met him when I went to Shattuck and I was 14," Okposo said. "He was a coach of mine and I developed a relationship with him over time in those years. He was someone I turned to when I needed some help, guidance or advice, and he's going to be missed."

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Byfuglien as D-man helps Jets overcome injuries

Friday, 01.09.2015 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- The injuries that threatened to spoil the Winnipeg Jets' 2014-15 season have instead brought a few revelations, lessons and wins along the way.

"You always get better in your most adverse times," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said.

The Jets have prospered in the six-week span when defensemen Zach Bogosian, Grant Clitsome, Toby Enstrom, Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba each sustained a long-term injury.

Enstrom, the first Winnipeg defenseman to miss significant time, is not expected to return until late January. Since he missed his first game because of a lower-body injury Nov. 25, the Jets are 10-5-4, a mark that was even more impressive before the recent 1-4-0 slide the Jets are on after a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

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Quote of the Day

This is a great day for me. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. This is a great opportunity that the St. Louis Blues organization, (owner) Tom Stillman and Doug Armstrong are giving me and trusting me in doing...This is going to be a great challenge for me.

— Martin Brodeur, after announcing his retirement as an NHL player and becoming a senior adviser with the Blues on Thursday