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'Real man' Benn ready to lead Stars to playoffs

Thursday, 10.08.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Dallas Stars president Jim Lites and general manager Jim Nill couldn't believe what they were watching during the summer, because two years ago something as small as forward Jamie Benn leading a group of men through offseason workouts seemed so unlikely, so out of character.

"He's like the pied piper now," Lites said. "You'd never think a veteran like Ales Hemsky is going to be following anybody around, but there he is, Jamie Benn leading him around like a little kid. There are probably a dozen guys who have that capability in the League."

Benn is best known for winning the Art Ross Trophy last season with 87 points, including 10 in his final three games, to edge New York Islanders captain John Tavares by one point. Lites, Nill and others know Benn differently; for who he is and what he means to the Stars.

It's in large part because of Benn's maturation into a leader that Nill, Lites and coach Lindy Ruff believe the Stars are poised to take the next step and become a legitimate contender in the Western Conference this season.

New, old important as Islanders open in Brooklyn

Thursday, 10.08.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- Tradition has a new home.

That's the slogan Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark and his staff are using in regard to where the New York Islanders will play their home games after 43 years at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, starting with the season-opener Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, CSN-CH, MSG+).

A capacity crowd is expected for the Islanders' first-regular season game at Barclays Center, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2012. Yormark admitted he's trying to expand the fan base in Brooklyn, but he's more than pleased that 30 percent of ticket buyers reside in Nassau County or Suffolk County on Long Island. In their final season at the Coliseum, the Islanders won 47 games and had 101 points. They're primed to contend again in the Metropolitan Division this season.

Blackhawks know patience is necessary evil

Thursday, 10.08.2015 / 12:57 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews understands the concept of having patience, how it can be a virtue, and why it's a particularly necessary asset for him and the Chicago Blackhawks to have at the start of this season.

That doesn't mean Toews, Chicago's captain, has to like the need for patience or wants any part of it. Haste is what Toews feels. A sense of urgency is the asset he wants his team to have. Slowly working into a season is not for him; it's not his style.

"Especially for myself, sometimes you want to go, you want things to work right away, and when they don't you can get frustrated," Toews said. "As a team I think we know how to handle that now."

Toews is hoping what he saw Wednesday is a sign of that urgency growing on the Blackhawks quickly.

Chicago's season started at United Center with a banner-raising ceremony signifying their Stanley Cup championship from last season. The night ended with the Blackhawks on the wrong end of the score in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers because of a slow start that led to a preventable goals in a poor first period and a deficit they couldn't overcome despite a strong second and third periods.

Blackhawks raise 2015 Cup championship banner

Thursday, 10.08.2015 / 12:54 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- The countdown clock on the scoreboard above center ice, set at 26 minutes, started going down when the video board turned on, showing pictures of the Chicago Blackhawks' latest Stanley Cup championship run.

More videos played, displaying images of the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the celebration from June 15, the night the Blackhawks won the Cup on their home ice.

The show was on, banner-raising night at United Center, the third of its kind since 2010, and it was like a dance party came to the "Madhouse on Madison." The lights went off and arena staffers tossed giant, glowing balloons into the crowd. The wristlets that were on every seat started lighting up in unison.

Galchenyuk gives Canadiens boost in opener

Thursday, 10.08.2015 / 12:40 AM / NHL Insider

Tim Wharnsby - Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Montreal Canadiens received the kind of play they have been accustomed to from Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban and Carey Price in their season opener Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But to see Alex Galchenyuk score his first regular-season game-winning goal since Dec. 16, 2014 in his first game as Montreal's second-line center was a welcome sight for the Canadiens in their 3-1 win against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

In his first three NHL seasons, Galchenyuk primarily has played the wing. Though last season was his most productive in the NHL, with 20 goals, the Montreal coaching staff wanted to see the 21-year-old become more involved and shoot more.

"There is no doubt we would like to see him taking the option of shooting the puck," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said.

Babcock, Maple Leafs win first coach's challenge

Wednesday, 10.07.2015 / 11:51 PM / News

Tim Wharnsby - Correspondent

TORONTO -- The decision was swift and decisive, and in the judgment of veteran referee Dan O'Rourke, the first coach's challenge in NHL history went without a hitch.

At 6:35 of the second period in the NHL season opener Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens appeared to score a go-ahead goal when defenseman Jeff Petry converted a behind-the-back pass from Max Pacioretty.

O'Rourke was the official down low and signaled a goal, but Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock decided to challenge the call on the ice after his assistant in the press box, Andrew Brewer, notified the bench there was goaltender interference on the play.

"I didn't challenge nothing," Babcock said. "[Brewer] yelled in [assistant coach] Jim Hiller's ear and Jim said, 'We're challenging.' Then they were good enough to put it up on the screen, so I knew by time the ref got over there we'd win it."

The Maple Leafs won the challenge but lost Babcock's debut as Maple Leafs coach, 3-1 at Air Canada Centre.

Islanders goalie Halak uncertain for opener: report

Wednesday, 10.07.2015 / 9:08 PM / News

The status of injured New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak for their season opener Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks remains unknown.

"He got a good sweat in the past couple days down [at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.], he did a lot of work, he was on the ice early," coach Jack Capuano told Newsday on Wednesday (the Islanders were there for a team-building retreat). "We'll have to see how he feels tomorrow and then tie it all together."

Five from 2015 draft class looking to stick in NHL

Wednesday, 10.07.2015 / 4:43 PM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

The beginning of the NHL season marks the start for several players chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft hoping to make a big first impression.

All eyes will be on the first two picks, center Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and center Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, respectively.

McDavid and Eichel are expected to be with their teams the entire season, but that doesn't mean they won't experience some adversity along the way.

"There's no question both players are game-ready for NHL play and will be able to contribute," said Dan Marr, NHL Director of Central Scouting. "Each player has handled pressure and adversity remarkably well in the past and there's no doubt that they can handle playing in the NHL as 18- and 19-year-olds.

"As rookies they have yet to experience the physical grind that accompanies playing in the NHL and the learning curve of finding out exactly what it takes to maintain a consistent NHL level of play to stay in a lineup. Their development, support and approach have them well placed to succeed."

Oilers name four alternate captains for 2015-16 season

Wednesday, 10.07.2015 / 3:31 PM / News

Derek Van Diest - Correspondent

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday named forwards Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and defenseman Andrew Ference, alternate captains for the 2015-16 season.

It's the first time the Oilers are starting an NHL season without a designated captain. Ference had been the captain the previous two seasons.

Forward Matt Hendricks will be an alternate captain in place of Eberle, who will miss 4-6 weeks because of a shoulder injury sustained in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes on Sept. 29.

The Oilers will open the season Thursday at the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; SN360).

Banner raising closes door on Blackhawks' latest title

Wednesday, 10.07.2015 / 2:45 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- The vacancy that currently exists in the rafters at United Center, an empty space between the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup championship banners from 2010 and 2013, was hard to miss if you simply looked up Wednesday morning.

"Yeah, I noticed," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "These things don't slip by me."

He'll notice the banner that will fill the empty space Wednesday night for the rest of his life. It's part of his legacy and part of Blackhawks' lore.

"It's pretty amazing to think we've been able to put three banners up there so far," Toews said. "That is what you play for."

The 2015 championship banner that will be raised here represents the latest great accomplishment by the Blackhawks, winners of the Stanley Cup in three of the past six seasons (2010, 2013 and 2015), making them arguably the NHL's newest dynasty, depending on how one defines a dynasty.

It also represents a last hurrah.

The players received their lavish, diamond-studded rings Sunday night and will bring the Stanley Cup on the ice as part of the banner-raising ceremony prior to their season-opener against the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

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You can be hyped all you want, but his game will speak for itself. He's obviously going to be a great player so we've got to make sure we keep an eye on him. Whether it's his first game or his 1,000th game, our job is to take care of business, shut him down.

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