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Penguins' Bennett, Lightning's Killorn visit school

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 5:25 PM / 2015 Kraft Hockeyville

Kristen Nelson - Staff Writer

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Students at Westmont Hilltop Middle School couldn't really focus on what their teachers were going over in class on Tuesday. They couldn't keep their minds off the visitors scheduled for the end of the school day.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Beau Bennett and Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn visited the school as part of the Kraft Hockeyville USA celebration prior to the preseason game between their teams at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The students piled into the gym, which was covered in signs made by students for the Penguins, and started chants well before anyone arrived.

Penguins, Lightning players impressed by Johnstown

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 2:08 PM / 2015 Kraft Hockeyville

David Satriano - Staff Writer

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- There has been a noticeable buzz in the area the past few days with the anticipation of the preseason game Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning as part of Kraft Hockeyville USA here at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

The Lightning received a warm welcome upon arriving in town, despite a heavy rain and the fact most fans here root for the Penguins; Pittsburgh is a 90-minute drive west

"Did you see the amount of people out there?" Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It was unreal. I don't know how to describe the pregame skate, being in front of a packed house. I see why they were crowned Kraft Hockeyville. I look at the response we were getting and we were the road team."

Chychrun among Central Scouting's A-rated players

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 9:30 AM / 2016 NHL Draft

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Sarnia Sting defenseman Jakob Chychrun, a projected first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, appears ready to make up for lost time.

Chychrun, who had 16 goals and 17 assists in 42 games last season as a rookie in the Ontario Hockey League, missed 26 regular-season games and five OHL playoff games because of an upper-body injury. Despite the absence, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound left-shot defender was a nominee for OHL rookie of the year and defenseman of the year.

"There's lots of expectations just because of how he's performed more than anything else, but it's compounded a little bit because we haven't been able to see as much of him than we would have liked," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "There's a lot of anticipation leading into his OHL season."

Matthews' smooth transition earns him top rating

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 9:30 AM / 2016 NHL Draft

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

It hasn't taken Auston Matthews very long to become an international success.

Matthews, a 6-foot-1, 194-pound center who many project will be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, made headlines in August after announcing he would join ZSC in Switzerland's top professional league this season instead of playing NCAA hockey or in the Canadian Hockey League.

The decision by Matthews was made with the help of his parents and player agents Pat Brisson and Judd Moldaver of CAA Sports.

New 3-on-3 OT expected to entertain, affect strategy

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin on a 2-on-1 rush less than a minute into overtime? Kuznetsov holding on to the puck and blasting a shot from the left circle? Ovechkin crashing the net in case there was a rebound?

You bet the Washington Capitals would take that scoring chance any day, twice if they could get it.

But, said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, "You've got to hit the net."

Ah yes, there is that, and in 3-on-3 overtime hitting the net might be more important than at any other point in the game. Because odds are a misfire, such as the one Kuznetsov had against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sept. 21, one that ricocheted off the end boards and popped back out, will lead to an even better scoring chance the other way.

Kuznetsov's miss led to a 3-on-1 for the Hurricanes, and the result was a tic-tac-toe goal by Kris Versteeg off of passes by Ryan Murphy and Eric Staal.

Cu-bet on it: Team-by-team bold fantasy predictions

Matt Cubeta - Fantasy Insider

Each season, fantasy insider Matt Cubeta makes his bold fantasy hockey predictions. They are wild, outrageous and possibly even ridiculous, but that's the point. He's not here to tell you Sidney Crosby will lead the NHL in points or Alex Ovechkin will lead the League in goals. This story is here to deliver the unexpected.

Of course these predictions might not actually end up coming to fruition, but Cubeta believes there is a chance they could, even if that chance is slim. The point of this story is so you the fantasy player can discover which players Cubeta might be high on going into the season, and those he thinks you should avoid come draft day.

You'll disagree with plenty of them (maybe even all of them), but in years past, Cubeta has nailed some. Of course he'll get more wrong than right, but again, these are supposed to be over-the-top predictions to emphasize how strongly he feels about specific players.

Five Questions: Rangers' McDonagh talks captaincy

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / Five Questions With…

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features New York Rangers defenseman and captain Ryan McDonagh:

TORONTO -- Properly analyzing what it means to be the team that has come close to winning the Stanley Cup two years in a row can be a difficult exercise.

One the one hand, you're close, which is better than the alternative, so that's good. On the other, close is never good enough when you're on a team that is good, has high expectations and doesn't raise the ultimate prize at the end of a long, taxing journey.

The New York Rangers have been the team that has epitomized close the past two years.

They went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 but lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings. They had Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at home last season but lost 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It's all left a funny and yet sort of unsure feeling with captain Ryan McDonagh.

"It's better to say that you're there, that you know what you're capable of, and you know you have that opportunity with this group that we have," McDonagh said. "But it's frustrating."

How close the Rangers have gotten the past two seasons only to fall short of the ultimate goal led to some deep thoughts during the summer about the state of the team, the window of opportunity with the current core and what needs to be done to get over the hump.

Datsyuk's health, coach among Red Wings' X-factors

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Paul Harris - Correspondent

DETROIT -- The 2015-16 Detroit Red Wings are a combination of elite veterans, solid veterans and young players who have been impressive at times but are still developing.

It will be first-year NHL coach Jeff Blashill's job to meld them into a cohesive group that can extend the Red Wings' streak of Stanley Cup Playoff appearances to 25 seasons.

Here are three X-factors that will help determine whether Detroit can make the postseason and go on a run:

Wild counting on improved power play, Dubnyk repeat

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Dan Myers - Correspondent continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Not much changed in the offseason for the Minnesota Wild, who will attempt to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season in 2015-16.

The front office likely wasn't inclined to make many moves after the Wild were one of the NHL's best teams over the final two months of the 2014-15 regular season.

Minnesota is counting on several young players to take another step in their development so it can move past the Western Conference Second Round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

"There are a lot of good young players in the organization, and I think it shows," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "I think they've done a good job. They can make plays and they are fun to watch."

Red Wings expect to make playoffs again with Blashill

Tuesday, 09.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Paul Harris - Correspondent continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams.

DETROIT -- A new coach and two key free agent additions will attempt to help the Detroit Red Wings to their 25th consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

Jeff Blashill takes over as coach, replacing Mike Babcock, who left in May for the same job with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Blashill coached Detroit's American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids the past three seasons.

The Red Wings also signed free agents Mike Green and Brad Richards on July 1.

Green, who signed a three-year contract reportedly worth $18 million, is the offensive-minded defenseman with a right-handed shot Detroit has lacked for so long.

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Quote of the Day

Yeah, it was a pretty special moment for me. Today was my Dad's [55th] birthday. I have a lot of family in town, so it was a special moment for me to score my first one today. A win definitely would have capped it off, but you can't have everything.

— Sabres rookie Jack Eichel after scoring a goal in his National Hockey League debut
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