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NHL Insider

Ekblad turning heads with rookie defensive season

Friday, 03.06.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell can remember the day he concluded that rookie Aaron Ekblad was going to be something very special.

It occurred last October during the Panthers' trip to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., for three days of training and team bonding prior to the season.

"He wouldn't remember it, but I remember it," Campbell said. "We were at practice and I gave him a pass where it didn't give him a lot of time and he just made a pass through one of our guys' skates to one of our forwards. I just kind of nodded my head thinking, 'All right, that's a play I feel like I like to make out there.'

"I've played in the League a while now and I feel like I can make those plays, but to see an 18-year-old have confidence and do that, I'm like, 'OK, yeah, this guy is the real deal.'"

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Coyotes' Smith to honor Alice Cooper with new mask

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 8:42 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

The Arizona Coyotes will go retro on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, donning throwback jerseys on a night they will honor former forward Jeremy Roenick.

Another figure from the Coyotes hockey scene will also be honored, just a bit more subtly. Goalie Mike Smith will wear a special mask for the game with rock icon Alice Cooper painted on its back plate.

"The coolest thing about the helmet is the back plate," Smith said in a video on the Coyotes website. "It's a tribute to Alice Cooper, who's been a lifer as a Coyote fan and a big supporter of the team."

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Leopold's daughter on letter requesting trade to Wild

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 2:00 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Jordyn Leopold figured why not?

She missed her father, NHL defenseman Jordan Leopold, and wanted him to come home, so back in January she wrote a letter to the Minnesota Wild with the hope of getting Jordan back to the State of Hockey because her father was lonely in Ohio without Jordyn, her mother and her three siblings.

"I thought it might work to get him home," Jordyn, 11, told the Wild website. "I didn't think the letter [had a huge impact] but it could've."

"The Letter" has gone viral since it surfaced on March 2 shortly after Jordan was traded to the Minnesota Wild at the NHL Trade Deadline. The Wild acquired Leopold from the Blue Jackets for defenseman Justin Falk and a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

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Coyotes to honor Roenick, don throwback jerseys

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Coming from the Chicago Blackhawks, an Original Six franchise with history and tradition, to the Arizona desert and a team in its inaugural season was a big change in itself for Jeremy Roenick 19 years ago.

But when he was introduced at a press conference as a new Phoenix Coyote in August 1996, Roenick had another surprise waiting: the color-splashed, kachina-inspired sweater he slipped into in front of the cameras.

But there was one more surprise: He loved the "RoboCoyote" right away.

"I know that jersey gets a lot of grief, but I liked it. I liked it from the first time I saw it," Roenick said. "Not everyone liked them and it was about 50-50 in the dressing room. There was a lot of, 'I can't believe we have to wear this thing.' I don't think (Coyotes captain) Keith Tkachuk liked them very much, but he doesn't like anything, so what's new?

"But to me, they were creative and unique and they were colorful. They stood out."

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Hitchcock changed Blues into Stanley Cup contender

Thursday, 03.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- From the moment Ken Hitchcock was named St. Louis Blues coach in 2011, the idea was for him to help drive them back to respectability.

With the Blues set to play the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN360), it was another day of preparation Wednesday for what they have been striving for: to be among, if not the best in the League with hopes of an extended run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Hitchcock, who is 697-423-95 with 88 ties in 18 seasons, hopes people don't judge the Blues and their body of work simply on playoff success.

The work has been arduous at times, and there certainly have been challenges, but the rewards of having them on the cusp of success has been rewarding.

"I don't think you can guarantee any success in the postseason; every team tries for six weeks," Hitchcock said. "I think your body of work, I'm like everybody else living in St. Louis; we want to have more success in the postseason than we've ever had, unlike everybody else. But your body of work tells you everything about the coaching staff."

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U.S. women's star Knight proud to shoot 'Like A Girl'

Wednesday, 03.04.2015 / 11:00 AM / NHL Insider

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Hilary Knight was one of an estimated 114 million-plus people in America watching Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1. And like many of those people, Knight was tuned in when Always aired its #LikeAGirl ad, part of its campaign to help instill confidence in young girls and tear down stereotypes.

For Knight, joining in was a logical next step.

"It was sort of a no-brainer to get involved with the campaign," Knight told NHL.com. "When I was growing up, 'play like a girl' or 'you shoot like a girl,' whatever it is, sort of had a negative connotation to it.

"After seeing the Super Bowl for the first Always 'Like A Girl' campaign, it really changed my view on the 'like a girl' phrase, and the tagline that they're using now."

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Rangers' Nash among best pure goal-scorers

Wednesday, 03.04.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Game after game, New York Rangers radio broadcaster Dave Maloney talks about Rick Nash's ability to check the puck back, to play on the inside, in front or behind the net, to dart around the slot, and to find a way to make a play with the puck in tight despite his size that results in a goal.

Rarely does Maloney have to look around for people helping Nash do what he does, even though they are there. Rarely does Maloney have to give credit to someone else for creating the opportunity for Nash, even though every player needs a little bit of assistance.

"A lot of what Nash gets is the result of what he does," Maloney told NHL.com. "[Derick] Brassard and [Derek] Stepan are smart, really good puck movers, but you could have an all-time puck mover play with Nash and he'd be the same as he is right now."

That makes Nash the most unique goal-scorer in the League and his ability to connect this season has put him in the conversation with Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos as the best pure goal-scorers in the League.

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Five things to watch when Red Wings host Rangers

Wednesday, 03.04.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings were major players at the NHL Trade Deadline earlier this week. Their latest additions will be on display in front of a nationally televised audience Wednesday.

The Rangers, who acquired defenseman Keith Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes and center James Sheppard from the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, are one point shy of first place in the Metropolitan Division heading into this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN1).

Yandle, who should give the Rangers' power-play a boost, made his debut in a 4-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Monday. Sheppard should play his first game for New York (39-17-6) on Wednesday.

The Red Wings (35-15-11), who acquired forward Erik Cole from the Dallas Stars on Sunday and defenseman Marek Zidlicky from the New Jersey Devils on Monday, trail the Montreal Canadiens by six points for the Atlantic Division lead. Detroit will be seeking its third consecutive win.

Here are five things to watch in the game between the Rangers and Red Wings:

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Predators' Fisher enjoying new role as father

Tuesday, 03.03.2015 / 11:50 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Nashville Predators forward Mike Fisher admits there's nothing better than being a father for the first time.

Fisher and his wife, country music star Carrie Underwood, announced on Tuesday the birth of their first child on Feb. 27, Isaiah Michael Fisher.

After discussing what went wrong in Nashville's 3-1 loss against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday, the 34-year-old veteran was all smiles when asked about the birth of his son.

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Kucherov settles in, surges during second season

Tuesday, 03.03.2015 / 4:25 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Long - NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA – Before Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov could enjoy the success he has had during his second season in the NHL, he had to go through the growing pains of being a rookie.

After scoring his first career NHL goal on his first shot, Kucherov's rookie season featured everything someone might expect a 20-year-old from Russia to go through. He had scoring droughts, he was the target of physical play and he dealt with the natural culture shock of being in a new place.

On the surface Kucherov's rookie season was a slight disappointment. He had nine goals and nine assists in 52 games. His struggles were magnified when he became a healthy scratch for two games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it was a valuable learning experience that he needed.

"He dealt with a lot of adversity as a rookie," Cooper said. "He took a lot of lumps and he learned some important lessons. He came out strong and I think he felt like he was going to score all the time, and that's the mentality of most scorers. But it didn't happen and he had to learn how to create opportunities for himself and a big part of that was improving his play without the puck."

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Quote of the Day

I loved being in the jerseys again and they worked some magic for us. It was weird in warm-ups, seeing No. 22 in that jersey and thinking he’s [Mike Gartner], and No. 8 reminds you of Danny Briere … every number had me thinking back to the guys who wore them and smiling.

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan on wearing Kachina-style throwback jerseys in a 3-2 victory against the Canucks on Thursday