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Defense, power play among Coyotes' five questions

Wednesday, 08.27.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

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

At this time a year ago, many pundits were speculating that the Arizona Coyotes were poised for bigger things offensively. The Coyotes added free agent Mike Ribeiro to existing weapons Radim Vrbata, Shane Doan, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle, and the team appeared committed to a more attacking mindset.

The philosophy worked, until it didn't, and the Coyotes' impressive 14-4-3 start deteriorated into a season of inconsistency on each side of the puck and, ultimately, a narrow miss of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season.

"Maybe the change in philosophy, trying to expand our horizons into a more offensive team probably didn't do us as much good, overall, as we thought it would," coach Dave Tippett said.

With Arizona approaching 2014-15 determined to avoid an early summer, an all-around game will be central to its chances, and also to the major questions facing Tippett and his staff. Here are five questions facing the Coyotes heading into training camp:

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Coyotes hope different look will equal success

Wednesday, 08.27.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

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

When the Arizona Coyotes (formerly Phoenix) take the Gila River Arena (formerly Jobing.com Arena) ice for their season opener against the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 9, they will be hoping the name changes won't be the only difference.

That's because Arizona endured a second straight early summer last season after making the Stanley Cup Playoffs three consecutive seasons from 2009-12. The Coyotes finished four points out of eighth place in 2012-13 and came even closer last season, when only two points separated them from the Dallas Stars and the final wild-card spot.

However, coach Dave Tippett said his team is not content with merely making the playoffs and argued that heading into 2014-15, the Coyotes are poised to compete among the Western Conference elite.

"If a couple things go differently, we make the playoffs. But we want to be a better team than just get to the playoffs," Tippett said. "Last year we just had too much inconsistency to push us into that last playoff spot. In this League, you know it's going to be a dogfight right down to the end and you can't afford to have any lulls."

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Familiar names among Coyotes' top 10 prospects

Wednesday, 08.27.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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

Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt said it's just a coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players.

The list of 'Who's Who' of players in the pipeline with familiar last names include forwards Max Domi (son of Tie Domi), Henrik Samuelsson (Ulf Samuelsson), Ryan MacInnis (Al MacInnis), Brendan Perlini (Fred Perlini); defenseman Connor Murphy (Gord Murphy); and goalie Brendan Burke (Sean Burke). As if that weren't enough, the organization also invited unsigned right wing Jackson Playfair (Jim Playfair) to development camp in July.

"It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads," Bernhardt said. "It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization."

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Boyle awed by role of friend in Ice Bucket Challenge

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 4:28 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

It's been an eventful, sometimes difficult summer for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brian Boyle.

He got married one week after he and the New York Rangers were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. Three weeks after that, he signed a three-year contract with Tampa Bay.

But a summer that started with such promise ended tragically with Boyle burying his best friend. It was at the recent wake of former Boston College hockey player Corey Griffin that Boyle caught up with another friend, former BC baseball captain Pete Frates, the man who unwittingly touched millions of people as one of the driving forces behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

"Isn't it amazing? This thing was pretty organic by Pete and his family," Boyle told NHL.com. "Who hasn't done it yet? You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't. That's got to be the coolest feeling for Pete."

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Hornqvist, Granlund top Jensen's fantasy sleepers list

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 11:00 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

With few exceptions, the majority of top-tier players are established and well-known to the common fantasy owner. Though those players are integral components of a championship team, under-the-radar options with high potential -- better known as sleepers -- can pay huge dividends in fantasy leagues.

Whether drafted or added off waivers, these players typically are undervalued on draft day but ultimately can become major fantasy commodities by season's end. Sleepers are extremely unpredictable every season, but the bottom line is these players end up outperforming everyone’s expectations, regardless of their age, team or position.

This week, NHL.com fantasy insiders Matt Cubeta, Pete Jensen and Matt Sitkoff take in-depth looks at underrated players who should be on your fantasy team's radar entering drafts. Each expert will provide 10 sleeper picks with corresponding stat projections (in order of preference), along with five additional candidates for fantasy owners to keep an eye on.

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Pacioretty ready to become a leader on evolving Habs

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 9:15 AM / News

NHL.com

When Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin traded defenseman Josh Gorges and allowed captain Brian Gionta to leave as a free agent, he made it clear that it was time for the team's young veterans to assume the duties the two team leaders would leave behind.

That message has been received loud and clear by last season's leading scorer.

Forward Max Pacioretty sees his role growing in the absence of Gorges and Gionta, both of whom will be playing in the Atlantic Division with the Buffalo Sabres this season.

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Sedins' supporting cast crucial to Canucks lineup

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The John Tortorella era was brief and not without its share of tumult for the Vancouver Canucks.

After five straight seasons in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks stumbled through Tortorella's lone season in charge, ultimately finishing with the third-worst record in the Western Conference. Even with Cory Schneider traded before the start of the season, goalie controversy consumed the Canucks. Shortly after Tortorella sat Roberto Luongo in the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at BC Place in favor of Eddie Lack, the Canucks' longtime starter was traded to the Florida Panthers.

There is now a new coach in Willie Desjardins and a new goaltender in Ryan Miller. Some of the same problems remain, most notably scoring depth up front. Ryan Kesler being traded to the Anaheim Ducks didn't help with that.

Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin are aging but can still be elite players. Is there enough around them to get Vancouver back into the postseason?

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

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Sedin scoring, Miller among Canucks' five questions

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks are pledging to prove last season's plummet to 25th place in the NHL standings was a one-year, rock-bottom blip and not the continuation of a downward trend that started in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a new management structure, a new coach and a handful of changes on the ice, the Canucks refused to contemplate a full rebuild and instead insisted their aging core can get them back to the postseason in a tough Pacific Division of the Western Conference.

The answers to these five questions will determine their chances of doing so:

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Canucks counting on Bonino as second-line center

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

If Nick Bonino had any doubts about how the Vancouver Canucks really felt about him, they should have ended as soon as he saw the behind-the-scenes footage the team released of management discussing the trade that brought him to Vancouver in exchange for Selke Trophy-winning center Ryan Kesler.

Bonino, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks along with defenseman Luca Sbisa and the 24th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft that Vancouver used to select Jared McCann, didn't go looking for the clip. He couldn't avoid it either.

"My grandpa is 91 and he's on the Internet all the time and he's my biggest fan, so he called me up and told me about it right away," Bonino said.

In the video, general manager Jim Benning talks about Bonino potentially scoring 20 goals for the Canucks, making other players better with his passing, and mentions that new coach Willie Desjardins wants and really likes him.

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With quick changes, Canucks expect playoff return

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

For a Vancouver Canucks fan base used to the slow, calculated -- critics would say dithering -- approach of former general manager Mike Gillis, this summer must have felt like a bungee jump into NHL team-building.

A little more than one month after taking over as general manager, Jim Benning hired coach Willie Desjardins and four days later began retooling an aging roster that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six seasons. By mid-July, the Canucks had four new forward lines, at least one new defense pairing, and a new No. 1 goaltender.

Benning granted center Ryan Kesler's request with a trade to the Anaheim Ducks at the 2014 NHL Draft, avoiding the two-year soap opera that accompanied a similar move for goaltender Roberto Luongo. For Kesler, the Canucks acquired a potential second-line replacement center (Nick Bonino), a depth defenseman (Luca Sbisa), and a second first-round pick (used to select center Jared McCann).

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Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers