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Features

Trophy, playoff races among questions remaining

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 3:18 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

There are fewer than 200 games remaining in the 2014-15 NHL regular season and the only race remotely close to being decided is the one for first place in the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks have a 13-point lead.

The rest of the playoff chases and scoring races are still up for grabs. Home-ice advantage is on the line. Players are trying secure their candidacy for postseason awards. Ten teams are within eight points of the lead for the Presidents' Trophy.

So much still has to be decided and yet the days are quickly ticking off the calendar. So many questions still have to be answered, but why wait until April 11, the final day of the regular season, when all 30 teams are in action? Why can't we just answer the hot questions now?

Here are 15 important questions heading into the homestretch of the season, with some educated guesswork for the answers:

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Senators GM Murray saving lives through cancer fight

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 3:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- St. Louis Blues assistant coach Brad Shaw is proof of how Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray is saving lives by spreading awareness through the public battle he is waging against stage 4 colon cancer.

If not for Murray's honesty and forthrightness since being diagnosed in June, particularly in a video piece for TSN reported by Michael Farber, himself a cancer survivor, members of the Blues coaching and management staffs would not have scheduled themselves for colonoscopies during the NHL All-Star break in late January. That's where Shaw found out he had a golf-ball sized polyp on the wall of his colon that if undetected could have been life threatening.

Doctors told Shaw he should have the polyp removed immediately. He had surgery on Jan. 28 and was behind the Blues bench the next night coaching against the Nashville Predators.

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Sabres' Larsson, Varone shining in expanded roles

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 1:44 PM / NHL Insider

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Following the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2, the Buffalo Sabres' lineup took on a drastically different look. It also provided a big opportunity to a pair of young centers.

Johan Larsson and Philip Varone have seen playing time in Buffalo before this season, but after two trades at the deadline that saw forwards Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell sent to the Montreal Canadiens, as well as a lower-body injury sustained by All-Star center Zemgus Girgensons, Larsson and Varone were recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to fill those holes. Now they’re the Sabres' top two centers heading into their game Monday against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN1).

Larsson hasn't been a stranger to the Sabres lineup this season. He's been in Buffalo since he was recalled Feb. 15, but he was playing on the third and fourth lines. Now he's between Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis on the first line.

"It's a great opportunity. I can't ask for anything more," Larsson said. "I've just got to show it every day and work hard. If you play with those guys you have to work your [butt] off and show them you want to play with them."

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Fantasy All-Access: More to Senators than Hammond

Matt Sitkoff - NHL.com Contributor

Every Monday, NHL.com contributor Matt Sitkoff identifies waiver-wire pickups, roster trends, schedule notes and a prospect to watch in fantasy hockey.

The fantasy world now knows all about Ottawa Senators goalie Andrew Hammond, who is the fifth goaltender in NHL history to earn a point in each of his first 11 career starts. But the players around him that have helped him on that streak also have fantasy value.

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College hockey free agents set to garner attention

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

College hockey is in the postseason portion of its schedule with conference tournaments underway and, soon thereafter, the 2015 NCAA Tournament. That also means teams are seeing their seasons come to an end and, for those players who are not draft-eligible and still free agents, a chance to sign professional contracts.

Every season, a group of undrafted college free agents draw the attention of some NHL teams, and some end up getting contracts. Here are a few names to watch and ones that could draw attention:

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Crosby, Malkin pushing Penguins, each other

Sunday, 03.15.2015 / 10:40 AM / NHL Insider

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Questioning who is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ best player seems rhetorical.

The obvious answer would be forward Sidney Crosby, but the topic is up for debate. Not because of a significant drop in Crosby’s production, but because forward Evgeni Malkin has matched Crosby’s every step this season.

Crosby is widely considered the NHL's best player, but he has experienced a lackluster season by his standards. That despite leading the Penguins with 70 points and being two points behind the NHL lead entering their game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN).

"I think we try to help our team get momentum," Crosby said. "When [Malkin] goes out there, has a good shift and his line's buzzing around, we definitely want to follow it up and use that and continue that momentum and hopefully we can help each other. If we're out there and we have a good shift and we can wear the other team down, hopefully they can take advantage of that tired group.

"I think it's good. You want to have that healthy competition, but I think we definitely try to get the best out of one another."

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Bruins' Spooner, Pastrnak have become key elements

Saturday, 03.14.2015 / 8:45 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

BOSTON -- When the Boston Bruins were protecting a two-goal lead on the road against the Ottawa Senators on March 10, coach Claude Julien joined left wing Milan Lucic with veteran forwards Gregory Campbell and Maxime Talbot for the last three minutes of a crucial 3-1 victory.

The switch left young forwards Ryan Spooner, who scored two goals, and David Pastrnak, who assisted on Spooner's second goal, on the bench for the end of the game.

Two nights later in a 3-2 shootout win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden, Julien didn't shorten his bench with the score tied in regulation or overtime. The Bruins' two offensively gifted rookies got to take their regular shift with Lucic in regulation and were a pair during a stretch of 3-on-3 play in overtime.

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Canadiens believe style of play will help them win

Saturday, 03.14.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens play in a market that can be hard on its team, to put it mildly.

The Canadiens have gone 1-3-2 and scored eight goals in their past six games heading into their game at the New York Islanders on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, City), but it remains a game between two teams fighting for first place in the NHL standings.

Every possible metric that can be used to measure the quality of a team, whether they are traditional statistics or newer analytics, shows the Canadiens to be flawed. Shots-for and shots-against, scoring chances-for and -against, shot-attempt percentage, unblocked shot-attempt percentage; pretty much any number you can find other than those representing the goaltending of Carey Price would suggest the Canadiens have no business fighting for the top record in the League.

Yet here they are, and this is not a one-shot deal.

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Islanders' Strome impressing at both ends of ice

Saturday, 03.14.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders knew they were getting a gifted offensive player when they used the fifth pick of the 2011 NHL Draft to select forward Ryan Strome.

But Strome's ability to play a solid two-way game is what has made his first full season in the NHL so impressive.

Heading into their game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, CITY), Strome ranks third on the Islanders with 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) in 69 games. He leads New York with a plus-19 rating, but will be a healthy scratch against the Canadiens.

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Chicago's Nordstrom banned two games for boarding

Friday, 03.13.2015 / 5:30 PM / Department of Player Safety News

NHL Public Relations

NEW YORK Chicago Blackhawks forward Joakim Nordstrom has been suspended for two games, without pay, for boarding Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson during NHL Game No. 1011 in Glendale, Ariz., on Thursday, March 12, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.

The incident occurred at 19:22 of the third period. Nordstrom was assessed a minor penalty for boarding.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Nordstrom will forfeit $6,630.82. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Quote of the Day

For six months, it's a really good accomplishment. But as soon as April [11, the end of the regular season] comes around, no one thinks about the regular season anymore. For six months, it's a real battle to get into the playoffs in the NHL these days. There are a lot of good teams, and it takes consistency over a long time.

— Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on clinching a playoff berth after a win against the Islanders on Saturday
AMP No Bull Moment of the Week