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Around the League notebook for Tuesday, March 17

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 9:00 AM / News

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The Montreal Canadiens (44-20-7, 95 points) and St. Louis Blues (45-20-5, 95 points) were victorious on Tuesday and sit tied in terms of points with the New York Rangers (44-17-7, 95 points) and Anaheim Ducks (44-20-7, 95 points) for first overall in the NHL. The top eight teams in the overall League standings are separated by only five points.

*The Canadiens defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2, with the teams scoring all five goals in an 11:06 span of the second period. P.K. Subban's 13th of the season at 15:26 stood as the game-winner.

*Subban's game-winning goal was his fifth of the season, second among NHL defensemen behind only Oliver Ekman-Larsson (7) of the Arizona Coyotes. Subban 13-39—52 is tied for second in League scoring among defenseman with the Pittsburgh Penguins' Kris Letang (10-42—52), four behind the Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson (18-38—56).

*Canadiens goaltender Dustin Tokarski made a career-high 41 saves to improve to 6-5-3 this season with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.


Five things to watch when Blackhawks face Rangers

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

It may very well be a preview of the Stanley Cup Final when the New York Rangers host the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden. This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN1) features two of the top teams in the NHL, each of which seems primed to play deep into the spring.

With the Rangers atop the League standings and the Blackhawks battling for position in the Central Division, there's plenty at stake for each team.

Here are five things to watch between the Rangers and Blackhawks:

1. Who replaces St. Louis?

The Rangers recently lost defenseman Kevin Klein for 3-4 weeks because of an upper-body injury, and now they'll be without forward Martin St. Louis, who sustained a lower-body injury late in a 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday.


Richards chasing Cup with Blackhawks after Rangers

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Brad Richards saw this kind of season coming for the New York Rangers back in 2011, when he chose to sign with them instead of multiple suitors as an unrestricted free agent.

But less than a year after helping New York advance to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, Richards will play at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday as the third-line center for the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN1).

The Rangers, who lead the NHL with 95 points, bought out the remaining six years of Richards' nine-year, $60 million contract last summer.

Richards signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks to continue his Stanley Cup quest, and said he harbors no hard feelings toward the Rangers.

"The only negative thing [in New York] was we were three wins away from winning a championship in an Original Six city, a great city, and that's why I was lucky enough to pick and choose this summer and come to an Original Six city here, a great historic franchise," said Richards, whose Rangers lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. "That's the only thing that's left out. It would have been nice to close the deal and do that, but a lot of players say that every year."


Kopitar, Gaborik searching for chemistry with Kings

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik were briefly neighbors in the popular town of Manhattan Beach, Calif., when Kopitar was remodeling a home earlier this season. It's a natural fit: The two are cut from the same cloth, elite European players who enjoy anonymity in Southern California.

But the buddy-movie notion of the two taking Kopitar's dog, Gustl, for a walk on the strand is slightly farfetched.

"We haven't gotten that far yet," Kopitar said.

That also might apply to their ongoing chemistry project this season for the Los Angeles Kings. After Gaborik and Kopitar clicked in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two will continue searching for that mesh when the Kings look to continue their climb up the Western Conference standings Wednesday at the Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).


Closer Look: Blackhawks, Rangers like to play fast

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / Closer Look

Evan Sporer - Staff Writer

Pace and tempo are concepts talked about in hockey, but somewhat difficult to define. There are no statistics or metrics for pace like ones which exist in basketball, yet there are still teams that carry a reputation for wanting to play fast.

Two teams unafraid to play a quicker game are the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks. When they play Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, TVA Sports), each team will rely on how it exits the defensive zone to push the pace.

At their best, the Rangers and Blackhawks don't spend much time between the blue lines. With good puck-moving defensemen, and systems preaching a quick, north-south game through the neutral zone, each team looks to go on the attack as soon as it wins the puck in its defensive zone.


Road outside Rogers Arena renamed Pat Quinn Way

Tuesday, 03.17.2015 / 11:16 PM / News

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- The road fans take to watch the Vancouver Canucks play at Rogers Arena will now be known as Pat Quinn Way.

The City of Vancouver renamed a section of the street adjacent to the arena as Pat Quinn Way in a ceremony before the Canucks played the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

It was a fitting honor, not only because many believe Quinn saved a floundering franchise when he arrived as team president and general manager in 1987, paving the way for Rogers Arena to be built and open in 1995.

It was fitting because the road runs in front of Gate 16, which was named after Trevor Linden, who was Quinn's first draft pick for the Canucks in 1988 and is now the team's president of hockey operations.

It was also fitting because it came before a game against the Flyers, the team with which Quinn began his coaching career after 606 NHL games as a rugged defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canucks and Atlanta Flames.


Panthers get two goalies when contest ends in tie

Tuesday, 03.17.2015 / 10:06 PM / News

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will have two new backup practice goaltenders Wednesday after their "Goal of a Lifetime" competition ended in a tie.

Bill Ruggiero and Dustin Smith, who were chosen as finalists after 65 participants went through drills and shootouts Monday, were declared co-winners after each stopped three of four shootout attempts during the first intermission of the Panthers game against the Montreal Canadiens at BB&T Center on Tuesday.

Ruggiero and Smith will be on hand when the Panthers practice Wednesday at the arena.

"Gonna get a good night’s sleep and do our best tomorrow," Ruggiero said during the second intermission. "Just being out there on the ice, it’s a great feeling. Practices, you’ve had so many in your life, but to be out there at an NHL practice and that next step that they all have and that level of professional attitude, I’m definitely going to enjoy that."

"[The best part was] getting to meet a lot of the alumni guys," Smith said. "Getting to hang out with Tomas Vokoun yesterday, and obviously getting shot on by these guys out here was such a great experience."


Rangers goalie Lundqvist cleared to return to practice

Tuesday, 03.17.2015 / 5:40 PM / News

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been cleared to return to practice following an exam and consultation with specialists, the Rangers announced Tuesday.

Coach Alain Vigneault told ESPN Radio New York that there is no timetable for Lundqvist's return to game action. The Rangers play the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) and are off Thursday, which means Lundqvist will practice Friday. Following back-to-back games this weekend, New York won't practice again until next Tuesday, which creates a challenge to find adequate practice time to get Lundqvist up to speed.

Lundqvist has made progress during on-ice workouts but has yet to take shots up high.

"He'll be skating with the odd player or two, but a goaltender needs to be able to track the puck, needs to be able to practice with bodies in front of him," Vigneault told "The Michael Kay Show." "With our schedule the way it's laid out right now, we don't have the opportunity to give [Lundqvist] a lot of practices. It's obviously going to take a little bit of time here just because we don't have the practice possibilities."


Video challenge considered for goalie interference

Tuesday, 03.17.2015 / 3:58 PM / News

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The recommendation to adopt 3-on-3 play in regular-season overtime next season dominated the news Tuesday at the meeting of NHL general managers here, but the suggestion that a limited video-replay challenge be instituted for next season could be as important.

The replay challenge, as proposed, would be used to rule on goals that involve the question of goaltender interference, or on delay-of-game penalties for players in the defensive zone shooting the puck directly over the glass and out of play.

"What we're going to do, which is different, is we're going to create access for the officials on the ice to actually see video in consultation with the Situation Room in Toronto and they're going to look at it and they're going to see if, with the benefit of review, after a coach's challenge, whether or not there was a better call to make," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

The NHL-NHLPA Competition Committee and the Board of Governors will have to approve each of the recommendations before they can be enacted. Each group traditionally meets in June.


Sharks' Wilson says relationship with Thornton is fine

Tuesday, 03.17.2015 / 2:33 PM / News

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Tuesday that his relationship with center Joe Thornton is in good standing after a phone conversation they had to clear the air following controversial statements they made about each other last week.

"The conversation we had really resolved everything very quickly; emotions and things like that," Wilson said following the second day of the NHL general managers' meetings. "As I say, our relationship is at a really, really good place and that's all that really matters."

Last Thursday, according to the San Jose Mercury News, Wilson told approximately 350 Sharks season-ticket holders that Thornton had the captaincy taken away from him after last season because, "he's got such a big heart that when stress comes to him, he lashes out at people and it kind of impacts the team. The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe."

Thornton responded to Wilson's comments on Friday by telling the San Jose Mercury News, "I think Doug just needs to shut his mouth. All I've got to say is I've been here every day working hard. I haven't taken a sabbatical. He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth."

According to Sportsnet, Sharks owner Hasso Plattner spoke to Wilson and Thornton about the incident and told them, "What happens [with] the Sharks, stays with the Sharks."

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Quote of the Day

I definitely think going back down helped me, I had a lot of confidence down there, I played a lot of minutes and I think that helped me a lot. With the 37 games up here, that gave me experience as well. I know what it takes to play in the NHL and now it's time for me to show that I'm capable of being a full-time NHL player.

— Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl on finishing the 2014-15 season in juniors after playing 37 games with Edmonton to begin the season