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Over the Boards

Over the Boards: Will Lightning benefit from injuries?

Wednesday, 12.11.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper believes his team will go from survivors to contenders by the end of the season because of the injury problems it is currently dealing with.

"There's no question we come out of this a better team," Cooper told "The one thing is if we ever do get healthy, which eventually we should, there are going to be really tough decisions for us to make. That's a good thing."

The tough decisions Cooper is making nowadays have more to do with the psyche of the young players who have been thrust into larger-than-expected roles because of the injuries to Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer (who recently returned) and others.

The Lightning have 13 players on their roster who have played in 71 or fewer NHL games, including four defensemen and goalies Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback. They dressed eight rookies Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. They have played nine this season.

"Guys that should be developing in the minors, they're cutting their teeth in the NHL," Cooper said. "That can be twofold. For some players it can work in the sense that it accelerates their growth, and for some guys it hurts because it's too much too soon. It's a really tough balance because you don't want to ruin these guys for the future and demoralize their confidence because it's a really tough League to play in, but we have no choice."

Over the Boards: Capitals' Oates gets Fehr on ice

Wednesday, 12.04.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates insists he likes forward Eric Fehr, values what he brings to the team and wants to be sure to put him in a position to succeed.

It's for those reasons Fehr has played the past five games as the left wing on the Capitals' second line with Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer. It's also for those reasons that Oates said he scratched Fehr for nine straight games in November after watching him contribute three assists in two games as the replacement for an injured Alex Ovechkin on the Capitals' first line.

The first part of that makes sense on its face. The second part requires some explaining.

Over the Boards: LaFontaine did research with Neely

Wednesday, 11.27.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Cam Neely thought Pat LaFontaine was merely picking his brain to see how things were going as one longtime friend and former competitor checking in with another. Little did Neely know LaFontaine was on a clandestine advice-seeking mission each time the two spoke earlier this season.

"Looking back I can say maybe it was research," Neely, the Boston Bruins' president and alternate governor, told, "but during the conversations it felt that it was just his interest in what was happening."

LaFontaine and Neely are laughing about those conversations now, two weeks after LaFontaine was named the Buffalo Sabres' president of hockey operations. He was hired on Nov. 13.

"I couldn't quite tell him everything," LaFontaine told "After he found out he sent me a funny email, called me and wished me good luck."

Over the Boards: Text from Richards relaxes Giroux

Wednesday, 11.20.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- A text message from a guy who recently walked in Claude Giroux's shoes helped the Philadelphia Flyers captain rediscover his passion so he could start to break out of his scoring slump.

"It wasn't going right, and I got a nice text from Mike Richards. … I think he gave me a boost to relax and play the game," Giroux told on Tuesday prior to playing the Ottawa Senators at Wells Fargo Center. "It's a great game. There's a reason why we play in the NHL. It's because we know what we're doing. It's just about going back to basics, going out there, have fun, play the game."

Giroux couldn't remember exactly when he got that text from Richards, the former Flyers captain who is now playing for the Los Angeles Kings. He said it was a couple of weeks ago, well before he scored his first goal of the season against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 9.

He also wouldn't reveal what Richards wrote in that text message, but it was enough to lift Giroux's spirits and get him pointed in the right direction.

Over the Boards: Western Conference dominance

Wednesday, 11.13.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The Western Conference teams have had the advantage over the Eastern Conference teams since the start of the 2005-06 season, but it's been even more pronounced this season, leading to various theories as to why that may be.

There's the element of speed, which many coaches, especially in the Western Conference, believe gradually has gotten better in the West over the years. There's the depth up front, especially among the top-two scoring lines on each team, which coaches talk about that being in favor of the West.

"We played Detroit and their top line killed us, but there was no secondary scoring," Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff told "Buffalo has had a real tough time scoring and we played against them. Montreal at the same time was having the same type of problems. I would point to that."

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock doesn't disagree with any of it, but when asked for a reason why the depth and speed appears to be greater in the Western Conference, maybe greater than ever before, he said it's a result of the measuring stick the Western Conference teams have now that has nothing to do with the Eastern teams.

Over the Boards: Redemption for Leafs' Raymond

Wednesday, 11.06.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mason Raymond was angry during the summer, and it turns out he had a good reason to be.

Raymond didn't doubt that he still could be an NHL player, even a top-six NHL player, but no one in a position of power was telling him the same thing. An unrestricted free agent, Raymond couldn't get a guaranteed contract before training camp began, a likely victim of the salary cap going down by approximately $6 million from the 2012-13 season.

"There are a couple of routes you could take in situations like that, but I believed in myself and my capabilities," Raymond told "To be honest, I had a pretty good year last year and that was a big part of it. There are a lot of what-ifs but I focused on what I had to do."

Over the Boards: Sharks thriving playing faster game

Wednesday, 10.30.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The San Jose Sharks are playing faster than they ever have under coach Todd McLellan, and it has given them a chance to have the puck more too. The combination of speed and possession has provided some staggering early-season results.

The Sharks lead the NHL with 21 points because they're also first in goals (3.92 per game) and shots on goal (37.8 per game). They are a League-best plus-160 in the shots on goal department (454-294) and are second to only the Colorado Avalanche in goals-against per game (1.58).

"That's all speed," NBC analyst Pierre McGuire told "Their general manager [Doug Wilson] realized something that some of us recognized a long time ago: His team was too slow so he started to jettison some slower players. Dany Heatley was moved. Ryane Clowe was moved. Douglas Murray was moved. They brought in younger legs, quicker legs. They put a huge emphasis on speed, and it's really paid off."

All of what McGuire mentioned is true, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan noted that the speed in his team's game didn't come solely because Wilson rejiggered his roster by trading Heatley after the 2010-11 season and then Clowe, Murray and Michal Handzus before the trade deadline last season.

Over the Boards: Richards leaving struggles in past

Wednesday, 10.23.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

At what point do questions about Brad Richards' struggles last season become old, dated and out of touch?

"If it's because things are going good then I'll keep answering them," Richards told

Things haven't been going well for the New York Rangers this season, but for the first time in a long time Richards isn't shouldering the blame. He's off to a strong start with seven points and 30 shots on goal in seven games. Considering the Rangers have scored 11 goals in their seven games (2-5-0), Richards obviously has been their most productive and consistent offensive player.

"I can't comment on what happened last season, but I can comment on the years before, where he was an elite player with an elite skill level and he really competed hard," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "What we've seen so far this year is exactly that."

Over the Boards: Leetch enjoying new job

Wednesday, 10.16.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Brian Leetch was prepared to move back to New York to join Mark Messier on the New York Rangers' coaching staff. He talked it over with his wife, Mary Beth, and their three kids. If Messier got the job, he was going. It was a done deal and Rangers fans would have had two of their favorites back together in blue.

"I felt comfortable moving forward with that," Leetch told "I was definitely on board if it happened. Obviously that didn't work out for Mark."

In some ways it was a blessing in disguise for Leetch. The Rangers hired Alain Vigneault and Leetch not only got to keep his family in Boston, where he and his kids are involved in the local hockey scene, he was able to dive into a different yet still intriguing opportunity with the National Hockey League.

Over the Boards: Tavares 'C's Ference as right choice

Wednesday, 10.09.2013 / 3:00 AM / Over the Boards

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Four years from now, when Andrew Ference's contract is expiring and he's entering the sunset of a successful NHL career, the Edmonton Oilers should have a desirable list of candidates to be their next captain as long as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pay attention the way John Tavares did on Long Island for the past two seasons.

Tavares noticed Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins' choice of Ference as captain over Hall, Eberle, Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins. He nods in approval because he understands what a few extra years can mean to a young player with the potential to be a superstar and the pressure to turn into a leader.

Tavares could have been named the Islanders captain two years ago, when he signed his six-year contract extension, but he wasn't ready for the responsibility. The Islanders instead stitched a "C" on Mark Streit's sweater and gave Tavares the "A".

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