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Player Profiles

Quenneville, stats suggest Toews is better than ever

Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 3:31 PM / Player Profiles

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It might not seem possible, but Jonathan Toews is getting even better.

At least, that's what Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said about his 23-year old captain and first-line center. It seems that Toews isn't satisfied with the Stanley Cup title he helped bring to the Windy City in 2010, nor the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs that came along with it.

He wants to do a lot more and it's the team-oriented goals that motivate him most -- despite his current pace to have his best NHL season as an individual. Heading into Tuesday night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes at the United Center (7:30 p.m., FS-A, CSN-CH), Toews is on pace for career highs in goals and points.

He's already found the back of the net 13 times in the first 24 games, assisted on 12 other goals and put up the game-winning goal in each of the past two games. He also has a team-high 18 points in 14 road games.

And those are just the stats that catch most people's eye, the goals and assists. Toews also leads the League in faceoff win percentage (65.1) and has an impact on virtually every area of the ice.

Cooke, with just four penalties, is a changed player

Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 1:31 PM / Player Profiles

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Matt Cooke
Left Wing - PIT
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 11
SOG: 39 | +/-: 2
Matt Cooke wanted to be a different player this season. Through 24 games, he's practically unrecognizable.

The 33-year-old left wing made a name for himself for all the wrong reasons during his first three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was suspended four times for hits that have been described as borderline, questionable or downright dirty. An elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh cost Cooke the final 10 games of the 2010-11 regular season and all seven of the Penguins' first-round Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Before that suspension was handed down by the League, Cooke knew that elbow to McDonagh's head was the end of the line.

Vrbata had no interest in deserting the desert

Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 10:35 AM / Player Profiles

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- More than a few players have flown out of Phoenix at their first opportunity, even after making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

"It's just very rare that you'll get someone who flat out says, 'I want to stay. I'll stay. I'll give you a discount to stay. Please sign me!' I was smiling, thinking we were going to get a smoking deal, but at the end of the day we got a fair deal. It wasn't a blue-light special or anything." -- Don Maloney

And coming off a 19-goal season with a career-high 29 assists, right wing Radim Vrbata figured to be an attractive target when he hit unrestricted free agency this past July. But before that talk had a chance to get started, Vrbata took a curious path, telling everyone he didn't want to go anywhere.

Vrbata wanted to stay in Phoenix and was willing to take less than market value to make it happen.

"It's very rare to have a player publicly declare he wants to stay like that," said Coyotes general manager Don Maloney. "We really tried to get a good deal on him. Would we have liked to have paid less? Sure. But at the end of the day it wound up being a fair deal. There was another team right there in the running, but the fact he wanted to stay played in our favor."

Vrbata didn't exactly put his agent, Rich Evans, in the catbird's seat, but he got what he wanted -- a three-year deal averaging the same $3 million he made last season. And as happy as Vrbata is with the deal, the Coyotes might be smiling even wider.

Colorado's Landeskog enjoying rookie campaign

Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 11:46 AM / Player Profiles

Deborah Francisco - Staff Writer

It's hard to imagine a more ideal rookie experience than the one Gabriel Landeskog is experiencing in Colorado.

From his first NHL game to his first goal, the Swedish native is having the time of his life, even in light of Colorado's struggles of late to win back-to-back games.

Not only is the Swedish native playing for the same club that his childhood hero, Peter Forsberg, played for, but he is doing so with a poise that has caught the attention of his veteran teammates.  In just 23 NHL games, Landeskog is quietly carving a niche for himself as something of a power forward in Colorado while averaging 17:36 of time on ice per game.

"Right from the start of camp, he seemed very comfortable playing against guys who have played in the NHL and he's definitely proved that in these first [23] games," Daniel Winnik, Landeskog's linemate, told

Giroux's star turn keeps Flyers among League's elite

Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 11:08 AM / Player Profiles

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

The first glimpse of Claude Giroux's superstar status came March 14, 2010, in the waning seconds of a game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
As time was ticking down in regulation, Giroux flipped a picture-perfect saucer pass over two Blackhawks defenders that landed flat on Chris Pronger's blade for an easy deposit into the Chicago net with 2.1 seconds left in what became a 3-2 Flyers victory.
Watching from the bench was then-teammate Simon Gagne, who was reminded of another ex-Flyer.
"Maybe it's too early to make some comparisons with Peter Forsberg," Gagne told, "but I did play with Peter, and he (Giroux) has pretty much the same style."
Fast forward a year and after a preseason game Sept. 26, Jaromir Jagr had his own flashback while watching Giroux.

Jagr finds comfort in successful return to NHL

Thursday, 11.24.2011 / 9:00 AM / Player Profiles

Kurt Dusterberg - Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- It is the morning of a road game, the second of a back-to-back set. Just eight Philadelphia Flyers have taken the ice for the skate ahead of that night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes -- but Jaromir Jagr is a conspicuous presence among them.

When the informal group finally sets up in the faceoff circles to fire a few wrist shots at the goaltender, the 39-year-old Jagr pumps his first shot inside the near post. He curls out of the circle without a sound, but with a wide grin on his face.

That's what you notice first about Jagr. He seems happy. Toward the end of his first go-round in the NHL, that wasn't so obvious to the hockey world.

"I was always happy," Jagr told as he shed his practice gear. "Sometimes you're happier than other times. I was happiest when I came into the League. You don't feel any pressure, any responsibility. You just go and play the game."

Longtime Panther Weiss keys Florida's improvement

Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 8:11 PM / Player Profiles

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers are off to a great start in 2011-12, and their slew of newcomers has made a major impact. But perhaps the most important player in the team's early success is the guy who has been there the longest.

While Kris Versteeg is on a scoring spree, Brian Campbell is piling up the assists and Tomas Fleischmann comes up with dazzling plays on a regular basis, center Stephen Weiss is scoring big points with his all-around game.

"He's such a quiet guy that just goes about his business," first-year Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "There's such a high level of professionalism when he comes to the rink. He has a really strong effect on our team. When he's playing well, which he's done for so much of this year – that really has been a bit of the heartbeat of our team.

"Stephen has really been the guy for me that has done such a quality job, not only offensively but against other teams' top lines as well. He's done a great job."

Flyers' Read staking claim as early Calder candidate

Tuesday, 11.22.2011 / 11:17 AM / Player Profiles

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- All this talk about possibly becoming the first player in Flyers history to win the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie certainly hasn't gotten to wing Matt Read.
Still, as hard as it is to stay humble, the 25-year-old does on occasion lower his guard.
"I don't pay much attention to the other first-year players … I'm just worried about my game and what I need to do to improve," Read said.
He was then asked if he witnessed any part of the five-assist night by Edmonton Oilers rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Sunday in a victory over the Chicago Blackhawks
"Yeah, I saw it and it was pretty impressive," Read said. "I watched it on 'NHL On the Fly.'"
Really, though, who could blame Read? Here's a kid who signed a one-way, three-year, $2.7 million free agent contract with the Flyers last March, suddenly being considered as much more than an admirable fill-in.

Crosby feeling butterflies as return approaches

Monday, 11.21.2011 / 12:55 PM / Player Profiles

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

"It's something I've thought about a lot over the last 10 months, so it's pretty exciting. You don't always get this anxious for games and this is one I can definitely say I'm anxious and excited for." -- Sidney Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby said he feels like he's already played 20 minutes just thinking about making his return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup.
"It's something I've thought about a lot over the last 10 months, so it's pretty exciting," Crosby said Monday morning from Consol Energy Center. "You don't always get this anxious for games and this is one I can definitely say I'm anxious and excited for."
Nobody is quite sure how many minutes Crosby will be able to play Monday night against the Islanders, but there is no doubt in No. 87's mind that he's ready to contribute.
Crosby last played on Jan. 5 against Tampa Bay. He's missed 68 games, including 61 in the regular season, dealing with symptoms related to a concussion. He's been practicing since training camp opened on Sept. 17 and has been cleared for contact since Oct. 13, but he wasn't cleared to play in a game until Sunday.

Dupuis has stayed around for long haul in Pittsburgh

Friday, 11.18.2011 / 5:13 PM / Player Profiles

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As the NHL anxiously awaits the return of Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to roll along.

Even after Thursday night's 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay, the Penguins are tied with Philadelphia for most points in the Eastern Conference with 25. That probably shouldn't be too surprising given the number of stars on the team besides Crosby, such as Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and goalie Marc-André Fleury.

Pascal Dupuis, meanwhile, continues to quietly contribute to the Penguins' success. He may not attract a lot of attention outside of Pittsburgh, but Dupuis has been an important player for a few years.

Not bad for a guy who was considered by most -- including Dupuis himself -- as a throw-in in the trade that brought Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh on Feb. 27, 2008.

"Yeah, he was a throw-in, I guess, in that deal and now he's a big part of our team identity," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after a Friday morning practice at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. "He's a big part of our leadership in our room and how he plays and also what he says."
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