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U.S. defensemen key to World Junior fortunes

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 10:00 AM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

BOSTON -- On the way to the 2013 gold medal, the United States World Junior Team set a standard by allowing nine goals in seven games.

In addition to goaltender John Gibson's performance, the United States benefited from a nearly perfect balance of all the elements of the game on its defense, led by current Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones and Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba.

One year after the United States lost in the 2014 quarterfinals to Russia and failed to bring home a medal, it's again in search of that perfect mix of defensemen who can suffocate the opposition's scoring and push the tempo to contribute to the offense.

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DeBoer, Devils positive despite injuries, losses

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Jon Lane - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Before the calendar turns, the New Jersey Devils need a turnaround.

Eight points out of the second Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Devils are back at Prudential Center after playing 15 of their previous 20 games on the road.

A 5-11-4 record during that stretch did not deter coach Peter DeBoer. Combined with the upcoming three-day Christmas break and a road game against the New York Rangers on Dec. 27, the Devils will remain in the New York metropolitan area until a New Year's Eve game at the Detroit Red Wings.

"Six points out with 50 games left (before a 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday), I don’t care what anybody says about history or anything like that. That's not an insurmountable amount of points," DeBoer said. "But we have to start winning games. We have to string four or five wins. We've played 10 more road games than home games, so the table is set for us. We have to make sure that we get it done."

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Positioning, speed keys to Red Wings' stingy defense

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Paul Harris - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- A big part of the Detroit Red Wings' success this season has been limiting their opponents' shots on goal and scoring chances.

Detroit (17-7-8) is allowing an average of 27.4 shots per game entering Friday against the New York Islanders. That's fourth in the NHL, trailing the Minnesota Wild (25.9). Tampa Bay Lighthing (27.2) and St. Louis Blues (27.2).

A key component of that is the spacing between the Red Wings' forwards and defensemen when they are forechecking and their opponents are attempting to come out of their own zone with the puck.

"I think their defensemen are really good in the way they play in the offensive zone," Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "And the defense play up in the neutral zone and they force you to dump it in. They don't spread out a lot when they're in the offensive zone."

That's the goal, according to Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

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Super 16: Isles' Okposo has uneven start to season

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Super 16: NHL Power Rankings

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Kyle Okposo had the best season of his career in 2013-14 for the New York Islanders, finishing with 27 goals and 69 points in 71 games. He moved to the top line next to John Tavares, and then continued to produce after the Islanders superstar was injured at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

On the surface, it looks pretty similar for Okposo this season. He has 27 points in 31 games, but only seven goals. More of a playmaker than a scorer anyway, a regression in goals could have been expected considering he shot nearly four percent better than his career average in 2013-14.

Okposo's point total this season is being propped up in part by 12 on the power play. He's averaging 6.0 points per 60 minutes with the extra man, which is nearly double last season (3.2). Check out his goal and point production at even strength in the accompanying table.

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Canadiens forward Pacioretty to hospital after injury

Friday, 12.19.2014 / 12:34 AM / News

Sean Farrell - NHL.com Correspondent

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty left the game with the Anaheim Ducks in the third period Thursday with an unspecified injury.

Pacioretty left at 4:04 of the third after he fell headfirst into the boards on a check by Anaheim defenseman Clayton Stoner. No penalty was called.

"It's an upper-body injury and we sent him to the hospital for precaution," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said after the 2-1 loss.

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Canadiens celebrate Koivu for acts on, off ice

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 9:20 PM / News

Sean Farrell - NHL.com Correspondent

MONTREAL -- Saku Koivu is well aware of the mysteries of fate, having been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma prior to the 2001-02 season.

On Thursday, Koivu's courage and determination in his life off the ice as well as on it was celebrated by the Montreal Canadiens. Chants of "Saku! Saku! Saku!" filled Bell Centre during a ceremony prior to Montreal's game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Koivu, who spent his first 13 NHL seasons with the Canadiens from 1995-2009, retired on Sept. 10 after five seasons with Anaheim.

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Jets add Harrison to injury-riddled defense

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 8:38 PM / News

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG – Another injury to a defenseman forced Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to act Thursday.

The Jets acquired defenseman Jay Harrison from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for the Ottawa Senators’ sixth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft that the Jets had acquired this past summer. Harrison, 32, is expected to bolster a blue line that has four regulars injured. He is expected to play against the Boston Bruins on Friday.

Harrison’s acquisition followed Jets coach Paul Maurice’s announcement after practice Thursday that defenseman Mark Stuart will be out until February because of a lower-body injury. Stuart sustained the injury in a fight with Buffalo Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers on Tuesday.

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Penguins' Crosby returns against Avalanche

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 6:43 PM / News

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby is in the lineup against the Colorado Avalanche at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

Crosby missed Pittsburgh’s past three games with the mumps. He participated in the Penguins morning skate Thursday to test how he felt and said he felt well afterward but would talk with the medical staff before determining if he would play.

“When I saw that picture, that's not what I looked like before I went on the ice,” Crosby said of a photo that circulated on Twitter of him with a swollen cheek. “It was just one of those things, we were well aware of it. Everyone did the right things to try to keep me and everyone else as protected as you can be. But it's just something that sometimes you can't do anything about it.”

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Emrick, McGuire reflect on past Winter Classics

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Pierre McGuire's favorite NHL Winter Classic moment is one he experienced from six time zones and approximately 4,200 miles away.

"I wasn't at the first one in Buffalo and I was watching it in Prague, and it was late at night," McGuire, NBC's Inside-the-Glass analyst, said on a media conference call Thursday. "The call I will always remember, 'Here's Crosby, with the game on his stick.' It was my great partner for the last 10 years, 'Doc' Emrick, making that call."

Mike 'Doc' Emrick, NBC's lead NHL broadcaster, was putting words to the incredible pictures McGuire was seeing on his television; Crosby at center ice in the middle of a Buffalo blizzard, ready to bear down on Ryan Miller for what turned out to be the shootout winner and the snow globe image for the NHL's new signature regular-season event.

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Winter Classic ice-building process remains on track

Adam Vingan - NHL.com Correspondent

WASHINGTON – At 1 p.m. Thursday, the sun hung above home plate at Nationals Park during the fourth day of rink building for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, flooding most of the soon-to-be-completed playing surface with light. The temperature hovered in the mid 40s, made chillier by a noticeable breeze.

With puck drop scheduled for that time on Jan. 1 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals, such weather on New Year's Day would suffice, though a few tweaks would be preferred.

"I would say a perfect day is 30 degrees and overcast, a little bit of snow," NHL Executive Vice President of Events Don Renzulli said.

Game-day forecasts call for partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 20s to mid 30s, according to Renzulli, though it is too early for those models to be concrete.

On the field, the construction crew, headed by senior director of facilities operations Dan Craig, continued to place the aluminum trays that will eventually maintain the ideal 22-degree temperature of the ice.

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Quote of the Day

He scores 50 goals, they go in, they go in, and they go in. And I think, 'Why can't I do that?'

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on teammate Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 50th goal of the season Tuesday in a 4-2 win vs. the Hurricanes