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Avalanche view last season's surprise as springboard

Friday, 08.15.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

Expectations are high for the Colorado Avalanche heading into 2014-15 following a remarkable turnaround that featured a surprising Central Division championship and their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2010.

The season ended with a seven-game loss to the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round, but the postseason experience was viewed as a necessary step in this young team's development.

"I think this is a big turning point for this organization," center Matt Duchene told the NHL Network. "I think you're going to start seeing the Avalanche playing deep into the spring and summer months."

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Top-six slots among five questions facing Avalanche

Friday, 08.15.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

The Colorado Avalanche improved from the second-worst record in the NHL to third best last season under first-year coach Patrick Roy, won the Central Division and earned a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four years. But the Avalanche won't surprise teams the way they did last season when they won their first six games and 12 of the first 13 en route to a franchise record-tying 52 wins.

Here are five questions facing the Avalanche:

1. Who will replace Paul Stastny as center on the second line? -- There are plenty of options, but the most likely is to move Calder Trophy-winner Nathan MacKinnon from right wing, where he played most of last season, to his natural center position. MacKinnon had 24 goals and 63 points while spending the majority of the time on a line with left wing Gabriel Landeskog and Stastny, who left as an unrestricted free agent to sign with the St. Louis Blues.

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Defenseman Barrie emerging talent for Avalanche

Friday, 08.15.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

Which Tyson Barrie was the real deal last season? There was the player who struggled in the first month and was sent to the minors, and then the one who returned to finish with 13 goals, the most by a Colorado Avalanche defenseman since John-Michael Liles scored 14 in 2006-07.

Barrie's emergence as an offensive force and clutch performer -- his five game-winning goals tied him for third among NHL defensemen -- was a major factor in the Avalanche's Central Division title and first Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance in four years.

Barrie, who turned 23 in July, had all of his goals and 22 of his 25 assists in the final 47 games. He averaged 18:32 in ice time for the season and his plus-17 rating was third best on the team.

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Flames' Hiller '100 percent' after appendicitis: report

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 10:03 PM / News

NHL.com

Calgary Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller is fully recovered after having an appendicitis attack in July.

"I talked to him the other day and he's back, 100 percent, skating, working out," Flames general manager Brad Treliving told the Calgary Herald on Thursday. "He's been back in his routine, fully functional, and no issues."

Hiller, who had the attack while training in his native Switzerland, had an arthroscopic procedure in mid-July.

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Buy-low veterans with hidden fantasy upside

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Year after year, fantasy owners who cash in on steals and breakout candidates around the NHL improve their chances of claiming that coveted league crown.

But while emerging young talent is always at the forefront of the offseason conversation, it's important to also keep an eye on veterans looking to prove they have something left in the tank.

We're not talking about elite-level players who have stood the test of time (Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton, Jaromir Jagr, Marian Hossa, etc.) or even middle-round assets (Pascal Dupuis, Dan Boyle, Patrik Elias, Mike Ribeiro, etc.). Fantasy owners need to be wary of hidden gems in the latter stages of their careers who can sneak back into fantasy relevance and boost their teams in the process.

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Red Wings GM Holland signs four-year contract

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 11:48 AM / News

NHL.com

General manager Ken Holland has signed a four-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings that will keep him with the organization through the 2017-18 season, the team announced Thursday.

"I've been here a long time and very proud, very happy to be a Red Wing," Holland told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. "I work for, I believe, the best owners in the NHL; passionate, committed. It's nice to know that ownership has confidence in me to continue to lead going forward."

Holland, 58, has been Detroit's general manager for the past 17 seasons. He's been at the helm for three Stanley Cup championships (1998, 2002 and 2008) and the team has reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs every season.

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Maple Leafs name Kennedy first to Legends Row

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 10:00 AM / News

NHL.com

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Thursday that Hockey Hall of Fame member Ted Kennedy will be the first of three players to be honored with a statue in Legends Row.

Legends Row will be in Maple Leaf Square, outside Gate 5 at Air Canada Centre. Two other initial honorees will be named during the Toronto Maple Leafs Fan Fest, which starts Sept. 6.

"In addition to our focus on building a winning team for today and the future, there is an important responsibility to celebrate our team's history and to create opportunities for a strong connection between our fans and that tradition," Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said. "Legends Row will be a fitting tribute that honors many of the greatest players to ever wear the Maple Leaf while giving our fans the chance to feel a part of that history. We are thrilled to include Ted Kennedy, a player who always gave everything he had to his team, and two other Leaf greats, as the first three players to be recognized."

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Predators hope Ellis contract done before camp

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 9:44 AM / News

NHL.com

In what has been a busy offseason for the Nashville Predators, one more important goal has to be reached.

Ryan Ellis, who was third among the team's defensemen last season with 27 points, is the lone restricted free agent from last season's roster still unsigned.

"Like 99 percent of negotiations that aren't done at this time, we just don't agree exactly on what the dollars should be," Predators general manager David Poile told Josh Cooper of The Tennessean. "Hopefully it will be done by training camp. That's what our target is."

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Blues add center depth to already formidable lineup

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

There are a lot of great teams in the Western Conference, and it has been that way for much of the salary-cap era.

In the past three seasons, no team in the West has won more regular-season games than the St. Louis Blues. Only the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins have won more in the NHL.

The Blues have famously had very little success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs during this time. While either the Los Angeles Kings or Chicago Blackhawks have won the Cup each of the past three seasons, one of those two clubs has also ended hockey season in St. Louis.

Like several other teams in the West, the Blues decided they needed more help at center and acted. Paul Stastny was the best free agent available at the position, and Jori Lehtera was finally convinced to come to North America.

The Blues also lost Vladimir Sobotka to the Kontinental Hockey League, and are going in a different direction in net. Will they finally be able to translate regular-season success into the postseason?

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Blues:

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Stastny's impact, goalies among Blues' five questions

Thursday, 08.14.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

The St. Louis Blues have had to stand by helplessly and watch the Los Angeles Kings (twice) and Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup the past three seasons.

After consecutive losses to the Kings in 2012 (second round) and 2013 (first round), and to the Blackhawks last spring, the Blues knew they couldn't stand pat. They had to upgrade in positions that the Kings and Blackhawks used as strengths in order to expose the Blues' weaknesses.

Here are five questions facing the Blues as they try to challenge for a Stanley Cup:

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Quote of the Day

(The tribute) was great, brought back a lot of memories. I felt I wanted to give them the thank you they deserved. I understand the booing and it was expected. They are great fans.

— Martin St. Louis after playing his first game in Tampa Bay since being traded to the Rangers last season
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