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NHL Insider

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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Bruins' Spooner, Pastrnak have become key elements

Saturday, 03.14.2015 / 8:45 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

BOSTON -- When the Boston Bruins were protecting a two-goal lead on the road against the Ottawa Senators on March 10, coach Claude Julien joined left wing Milan Lucic with veteran forwards Gregory Campbell and Maxime Talbot for the last three minutes of a crucial 3-1 victory.

The switch left young forwards Ryan Spooner, who scored two goals, and David Pastrnak, who assisted on Spooner's second goal, on the bench for the end of the game.

Two nights later in a 3-2 shootout win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden, Julien didn't shorten his bench with the score tied in regulation or overtime. The Bruins' two offensively gifted rookies got to take their regular shift with Lucic in regulation and were a pair during a stretch of 3-on-3 play in overtime.

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Islanders' Strome impressing at both ends of ice

Saturday, 03.14.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders knew they were getting a gifted offensive player when they used the fifth pick of the 2011 NHL Draft to select forward Ryan Strome.

But Strome's ability to play a solid two-way game is what has made his first full season in the NHL so impressive.

Heading into their game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, CITY), Strome ranks third on the Islanders with 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) in 69 games. He leads New York with a plus-19 rating, but will be a healthy scratch against the Canadiens.

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Canadiens believe style of play will help them win

Saturday, 03.14.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens play in a market that can be hard on its team, to put it mildly.

The Canadiens have gone 1-3-2 and scored eight goals in their past six games heading into their game at the New York Islanders on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, City), but it remains a game between two teams fighting for first place in the NHL standings.

Every possible metric that can be used to measure the quality of a team, whether they are traditional statistics or newer analytics, shows the Canadiens to be flawed. Shots-for and shots-against, scoring chances-for and -against, shot-attempt percentage, unblocked shot-attempt percentage; pretty much any number you can find other than those representing the goaltending of Carey Price would suggest the Canadiens have no business fighting for the top record in the League.

Yet here they are, and this is not a one-shot deal.

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Flames credit comeback success to fitness level

Friday, 03.13.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

CALGARY -- From an office overlooking the fitness facility in the bowels of Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary Flames strength and conditioning coach Ryan van Asten took a moment and paused.

Then, peering out from his desk in the direction of his other, bigger office of gym equipment, van Asten suggested he knew at least part of the reason the Flames have found success in the second season of what is supposed to be a rebuilding process.

Fitness.

"You kind of have to look at it as so many different variables," he said atop an exercise ball. "I like to think that piece of the puzzle is paying off, what we do in the gym. We train every day. There are so many different factors. One of them is, we've done it so many different times, is confidence. At the end of the day, if you don't have the physiological resources, it's all for naught.

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Bruins' Eriksson hears criticism, sticks to his game

Thursday, 03.12.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Out of his Boston Bruins uniform and equipment, forward Loui Eriksson walks through the dressing room and strikes a figure more reminiscent of Stefan Edberg than Terry O'Reilly.

At 6-foot-2, 196 pounds, Eriksson might be a few pounds shy of qualifying as a "big, bad Bruin." But one look at his coat-hanger shoulders and lanky legs completely rules out any chance that Eriksson can rival O'Reilly, Cam Neely or even teammate Milan Lucic in terms of punishing physicality and the stereotype that has characterized the ideal Bruins player for more than 90 years.

Eriksson is not built to punish opposing defensemen on the forecheck or staple combatants to the glass in the corners. That doesn't mean he can't use other means to be effective and make himself invaluable to the Bruins.

Obviously he has found a way during his second season to increase his importance to Boston's fortunes; after 66 games he leads all Bruins forwards in average ice time at 18:19.

Eriksson has played in all but one of the Bruins' games and he has 17 goals and 39 points, seven goals and two points more than he had in 61 games last season. His 2.7 shot attempts relative (SAT Rel) ranks fifth among Boston's forwards. Eriksson's bounce-back sophomore season continues when the Bruins host the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TVA, SN360, SUN, NESN).

"That's not really been my game," the soft-spoken Eriksson said about the bruising approach many Bruins stars have taken to the sport over the years. "I've always been trying to have a good stick and try to take away pucks from other guys. That's how I've been playing ever since I came over and [began] playing in the NHL. I don't think it'll change in that way."


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Five things to watch when Rangers face Capitals

Wednesday, 03.11.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals have played in four of the past six Stanley Cup Playoffs, with each team winning two series. Those series have gone a combined 26 of 28 possible games, with 18 of those games decided by one goal.

This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN1) will go a long way in determining if the Rangers and Capitals play again in this year's playoffs.

With the Rangers in second place in the Metropolitan Division and the Capitals in fourth, another matchup this spring is within reach. Each made a move prior to the NHL Trade Deadline to bolster its roster down the stretch.

Washington acquired forward Curtis Glencross from the Calgary Flames, and he's made an immediate impact with two goals and four points in his three games since the trade, skating on a line with Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer. The Capitals need an offensive threat who isn't Alex Ovechkin and as of now Glencross appears to be delivering.

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Quote of the Day

He scores 50 goals, they go in, they go in, and they go in. And I think, 'Why can't I do that?'

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on teammate Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 50th goal of the season Tuesday in a 4-2 win vs. the Hurricanes