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2012-2013 Season Preview

Sprint toward playoffs leaves no margin for error

Thursday, 01.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The end goal remains the same in a 48-game season as it does in an 82-game season. The mindset for getting there is what's different now.

"You know how during a season you have the beginning and it's all excitement, then you get into the dog days, then things ramp up again for the playoffs," Minnesota left wing Zach Parise told NHL.com. "Well, now it'll just be ramped up the whole time."

The sprint to the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins Saturday when 26 teams play the first of their 48 games this season. Ninety-nine days is all they'll have to earn a playoff spot. There are no preseason games to work out the kinks, no time to waste.

"It's amplified now," ex-Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko, who experienced the 48-game sprint in 1995, told NHL.com. "It's a big challenge for the coaches to get guys to gel and find that chemistry right away, more so than in an 82-game season when you can go through your prolonged slump.

"The L.A. Kings can't do what they did last year. They might not make the playoffs."

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Will new look on bench equal success for Sharks?

Thursday, 01.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The San Jose Sharks went to the Western Conference Finals in 2010 and 2011, and in between saw a number of their top players skate in the 2010 Olympics. That's a lot of hockey in a short span, and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson believes that was one factor for the team's slide to seventh in the conference last season and loss in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But rather than dwell on last season's struggles, Wilson is embracing the positives. Could a longer offseason actually be a good thing?

"Going to the final four two years in a row and the Olympics thrown in, maybe if [players] got rest this summer and rehabbed, they come back healthy and in great shape, it may be a good thing out of a bad situation," Wilson told NHL.com.

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Ducks counting on Hiller, Selanne to return to playoffs

Thursday, 01.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Pacific Division was arguably the most competitive in the entire NHL last season from top to bottom, but that's of little consolation to the Anaheim Ducks.

The top three teams -- Phoenix, San Jose and Los Angeles -- were separated by two points, with the Kings going on to best the Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals and then win the franchise's first Stanley Cup. Dallas finished fourth, out of the playoff mix, but stayed in the race until the final week of the regular season.

The Ducks? They endured a terrible first half of the season, replaced Randy Carlyle as coach with Bruce Boudreau, then went on a furious run to cut a 20-point deficit in the postseason race all the way down to four before fading late and finishing with a 34-36-12 record, last in the Pacific and 15 points shy of a playoff berth.

Anaheim didn't make any splashy moves ahead of this season to improve its chances for 2013. Instead, the Ducks will hope the revitalized health of goalie Jonas Hiller, a return by the ageless Teemu Selanne, and more consistent production from Bobby Ryan and linemates Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf help spell a bounce-back campaign.

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Continuity could help Kings defend Stanley Cup title

Thursday, 01.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Kings' march to a championship in 2012 was so remarkable, it isn't easy to place in a historical context.

Not only was Los Angeles the first No. 8 seed to claim the Stanley Cup, but the Kings' level of dominance en route to the title was even more stunning. They went 16-4 in the postseason, missing a chance to tie the 1988 Edmonton Oilers for the fewest losses since the tournament expanded to need 16 wins in 1987 when the New Jersey Devils won twice to avoid elimination in the Final.

Los Angeles did win the first three games of every series for the first time in League history, and doing so as the road team in Games 1 and 2 each time made it all the more remarkable. The Kings simultaneously became one of the most unexpected and most dominant champions in the history of the Stanley Cup.

"This is as good as it can get. I've won world juniors, Calder Cup and now the Stanley Cup," Jeff Carter said. "For a Canadian boy growing up, you dream about winning the Stanley Cup. When you have the chance and it actually happens, it's almost a surreal feeling. Today, bringing it back to my family and friends, it all kind of comes together and it's pretty special."

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Stars hope changes pay off in return to playoffs

Thursday, 01.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

During a 20-year, Hall of Fame career, Joe Nieuwendyk missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs four times. He's missed the playoffs each of his first three seasons as general manager of the Dallas Stars, but Nieuwendyk spent the offseason reshaping the team's roster to prevent him from matching his years of disappointment in two decades as a player.

In a flurry of moves that started at the 2012 NHL Draft and carried through the first week of free agency, the Stars subtracted forwards Mike Ribeiro, Steve Ott and Jake Dowell, as well as defensemen Sheldon Souray and Adam Pardy, while adding forwards Derek Roy, Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, and defenseman Aaron Rome.

"We've been able to remake our team a bit and we like it," Stars owner Tom Gagliardi said after the early-summer flurry of moves. "It fits very well with our long-term direction. We had to give up a couple of assets to get there, but we like who we've brought in and the deals we made. We feel fortunate we got done what we wanted to get done in pretty short order. We're a better hockey team today."

The addition of a pair of 40-year-old forwards is the most striking change, and Whitney and Jagr will be expected to play major roles at advanced ages.

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Veterans Jagr, Sullivan could change tide in Pacific

Thursday, 01.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

With the 2012-13 NHL season ready to begin, teams will be scrambling on a nightly basis to earn points and clinch a spot in what is primed to be a wild 48-game race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A condensed schedule means more games in a short amount of time, and teams will be relying on every player on their roster to contribute. NHL.com takes a closer look at the players who will need to be major factors for Pacific Division squads:

Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks -- It was an up-and-down season for the Swiss goaltender in 2011-12, but the biggest positive was that he was healthy. Hiller appeared in 73 games last season after a bout with vertigo limited him to 49 games in 2010-11.

Now that he knows those issues are behind him, it's up to Hiller to improve on the .909 save percentage he posted last season. If he does, Anaheim's chances of securing a playoff spot will greatly improve.

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What key questions face Pacific Division teams?

Thursday, 01.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

NHL.com Staff

The wait for the 2012-13 season is nearly over. What questions do each NHL team need to answer to be successful, and do they have the resources to provide said responses? Well, let's take a division-by-division look at some of the key quandaries for each NHL franchise as the campaign beckons. Next up is the Pacific Division, which includes the two highest-scoring active players and the defending champs.

Ducks ANAHEIM DUCKS

It probably goes without saying that coming off a season in which they finished 13th in the Western Conference and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs by 15 points, there are no shortage of questions facing the Anaheim Ducks.

Since claiming the franchise's first championship in 2007, the Ducks have won a single playoff round. They've made the postseason three times and failed to get there twice, but their overall performance last season was particularly vexing.

1. What will Bruce Boudreau be able to achieve in his first full season in Anaheim?

Although he couldn't pull off the miracle comeback he did when he first became an NHL coach in Washington, leading the Capitals back from last place in the Eastern Conference to the first of four consecutive Southeast Division titles in 2007-08, Boudreau re-energized the Ducks -- most notably goalie Jonas Hiller and the team's defensive efforts in front of him -- and created expectations of better things to come.

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With Doan in tow, Coyotes hope to sustain success

Thursday, 01.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

As the 2011-12 NHL season loomed, the Phoenix Coyotes were preparing for a campaign after making the Stanley Cup Playoffs but losing arguably their most valuable player. But instead of taking a step back without goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, all the Coyotes did was produce the most successful season in franchise history.

Despite sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference after the games played on March 29, the Coyotes rattled off five straight victories to close the regular season and capture the first division title in the franchise’s 32-year NHL history.

The winning didn’t stop there. The Coyotes won a playoff series for the first time since moving to the desert in 1996 and doubled the organization’s series win total before losing to the eventual champs, the Los Angeles Kings, in the Western Conference Finals.

After their unprecedented success, it was another eventful offseason in the desert. The ownership situation is still not determined, as a group led by Greg Jamison is in the process of trying to finish its purchase the franchise.

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Kovalchuk 'happy I'm back' with Devils

Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 5:05 PM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Ilya Kovalchuk officially and finally ended the mini-drama about his return to North America on Wednesday when he stepped back on the ice with the New Jersey Devils.
 
"The NHL is the best league in the world and I'm excited," Kovalchuk said.
 
Kovalchuk, who spent the lockout playing in his native Russia for SKA St. Petersburg, missed the first three days of NHL training camp in order to play in the KHL All-Star Game on Sunday and travel back to New Jersey with his family.
 
Initially, there were reports that despite an agreement to honor contracts between the NHL and the KHL, Kovalchuk was thinking about staying in the KHL for the duration of the season. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello squashed those rumors Sunday when he gave the details of Kovalchuk's return to New Jersey.
 
However, nothing was certain until Kovalchuk arrived at Prudential Center for the Devils' scrimmage against their AHL affiliate from Albany.

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McGuire: Health, depth key to success in short season

Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 4:29 PM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

The NHL is back this weekend, as is the NHL on NBC, with the Flyers playing host to the Penguins and the Blackhawks paying a visit to the Kings on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET, and the Sabres playing their first game of the season Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET at home against the Flyers.

NBC analyst Pierre McGuire will be between the benches for both Flyers games. A 48-game season is nothing new to McGuire, who was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators during the 48-game season of 1994-95.

What are McGuire’s thoughts on the three teams he'll be watching this weekend? Which teams will benefit most playing a condensed schedule? He answered all that and more during a phone interview Wednesday:

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Quote of the Day

You could see out there that everybody was willing to compete, to sacrifice, even blocking shots to the end. Even in the third when we were up 5-0, guys were still working hard and blocking shots That's a nice feeling also for the future.

— Flames goalie Jonas Hiller after his team's 5-0 win over Carolina
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