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Features

All roads lead to EPIX this winter

Kevin Smith to provide weekly recaps of two-part, eight-episode series

NEW YORK -- Premium entertainment network EPIX and the National Hockey League announced today that film director, author, and avid hockey fan Kevin Smith (Tusk, Clerks) will host weekly recaps of the EPIX Original Series EPIX Presents Road To The NHL Winter Classic™ and EPIX Presents Road To The NHL Stadium Series™, produced by 52-time Emmy® Award winner Ross Greenburg. The series is narrated by Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave, Lincoln).

Kevin Smith's Penalty Box, two-minute episodes that capture Smith's distinctive perspective on each week's highlights, will run on air and across EPIX and NHL digital platforms the Wednesday following the Tuesday night premiere. Encores of Kevin Smith's Penalty Box will air leading into the premiere of the following week's episode.

EPIX Presents Road To The NHL Winter Classic™ will make its U.S. Television Premiere on EPIX December 16 at 10pm ET/PT, 9CT, with four weekly episodes following the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals as they prepare to compete in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®. EPIX Presents Road To The NHL Stadium Series™ will make its U.S. Television Premiere on EPIX February 3, 2015 at 10pm ET/PT, 9CT, with four weekly episodes focused on the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks on the road to the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™.

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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Don't give up on elite starters

Thursday, 12.11.2014 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

We're in a new information era in hockey (at least new in a sense of public attention), with an increased emphasis on number crunching and statistics. There's a prevailing thought that, much like counting cards or playing the lottery, a finite equation can be used to predict future results. But some statistics and statistical concepts we use aren't as complicated as predicting what card will be drawn next from out of deck.

One thing to keep in mind when evaluating fantasy hockey goalies is regression.

Simply put, every player has an average stat line he produces. If a player is performing above or below that line, it's expected he eventually will produce more or less to achieve his average.

For example, during his career Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has scored on 12.3 percent of his shots. So if out of the first 100 shots Ovechkin takes in a season six (or six percent) go in, we would expect that number gradually to rise as he continues playing.

The same concept can be applied for goalies. The Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask carried a career save percentage above .928 into this season, well above the League average. But Rask, for a number of reasons, has seen his save percentage drop to .912 through 21 games this season. The last time Rask had a save percentage below .920 for an entire season was 2010-11 when he was backing up Tim Thomas.

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Bruins goalie Rask managing greater expectations

Thursday, 12.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

There's an expectation of perfection that hovers around Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask unlike most others who play a team sport.

The wish that he should make every save, regardless of difficulty, and win every game comes mostly from outside the Bruins dressing room, from media and fans.

The pressure might not be as great on Rask as it can be for a goaltender in Montreal or Toronto, but among New England athletes probably Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has more of a spotlight on him. And when things go wrong, Rask, fair or not, garners the majority of the blame.

Rask is judged by more than wins, losses and save percentage. He's compared to other goaltenders around the NHL. And he's compared to a goaltender who three years ago ended the Bruins' 39-year Stanley Cup drought with a Conn Smythe-winning performance. Rask's three runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender have ended in the second round twice and in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rask and the Bruins play the Blackhawks at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN360).

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Unmasked: Bobrovsky, Mason succeeding differently

Thursday, 12.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / Unmasked

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

It could not have been easy for Philadelphia Flyers fans to see goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky hoist the 2013 Vezina Trophy one year after being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. There was no need, however, to rekindle any angst when Bobrovsky was named NHL Second Star of the Week heading into a game against the Flyers on Tuesday.

Bobrovsky would be the first to remind fans still upset by his departure that the goalie Philadelphia traded is not the same one now stopping pucks and winning awards in Columbus. He has made significant technical and tactical adjustments since leaving.

"I would say it's two different goalies right now comparing me in Philly and right now in Columbus," Bobrovsky told NHL.com. "I changed my style a lot. Mentally, physically, technically, all those things have changed here."

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Zacha making transition to North America look simple

Thursday, 12.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Pavel Zacha had a pretty good idea of the steps he needed to take to succeed in his first season in North America with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League.

It wasn't easy. The smaller rinks and quick decisions he had to make on the fly were a bit of an adjustment, but the Czech Republic native seems to have found his groove.

"Pavel has made a seamless transition to the North American game," Sting general manager Nick Sinclair said. "He's a very intelligent young man both on and off the ice."

With 19 points in 21 games, Zacha is tied for third in scoring among OHL rookies, and his nine goals are tied for third on the Sting. He had an A rating from NHL Central Scouting on its November players to watch list for the 2015 NHL Draft.

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Wild's Scandella suspended two games

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 8:04 PM / Department of Player Safety News

NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella has been suspended for two games, without pay, for an illegal check to the head of New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson during NHL Game No. 415 in St. Paul on Tuesday, December 9, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.

The incident occurred at 17:32 of the third period. Scandella was assessed a minor penalty for illegal check to the head.

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Fantasy top 60 'D': Panthers' Ekblad proving his value

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 12:00 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers once sang, "The waiting is the hardest part."

There are many interpretations as to what they might have been talking about in that song, but for today's purposes we’ll assume that it was NHL draft picks and the time it takes them to make an impact in the League.

Most players don't make the leap from the junior or college ranks right away. In fact, a team might have to invest years of coaching and development before they see the fruits of their labor; it takes even longer if that player is a defenseman.

Aaron Ekblad
Defense - FLA
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 18
SOG: 53 | +/-: 6
Though the "wait" typically is long when it comes to defensemen, sometimes a special player arrives and makes an immediate impact. The Florida Panthers are experiencing that right now with the player they selected with the first pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, Aaron Ekblad.

Ekblad is no stranger to making an immediate impact. He was granted exceptional player status as a 15-year-old to play in the Ontario Hockey League and went on to have 40 goals and 116 points in 175 games for the Barrie Colts between 2011 and 2014.

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Lightning's Stamkos evolving into all-around star

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 11:11 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

As difficult as Steven Stamkos has been to defend, the Tampa Bay Lightning captain used to be easy to find on the ice.

Youngest to 250 NHL goals
1. Wayne Gretzky - 22 years, 28 days
2. Mario Lemieux - 23 years, 77 days
3. Dale Hawerchuk - 23 years, 289 days
4. Alex Ovechkin - 24 years, 126 days
5. Pierre Turgeon - 24 years, 199 days
6. Steve Yzerman- 24 years, 222 days
7. Jimmy Carson - 24 years, 241 days
8. Mike Bossy - 24 years, 275 days
9. Michel Goulet - 24 years, 302 days
10. Steven Stamkos - 24 years, 305 days

"He used to post up at that left-wing dot and every goalie in the League knew it was coming and they couldn't stop it," NHL Network and TSN analyst Craig Button said. "It was like a fastball. The fastball is coming and you can't hit it."

It worked well for him. Stamkos scored 51 goals in his second season, including 24 off one-timers, of which 16 came from the left side, 14 from inside the circle.

"His one-timer from that side of the ice made him very famous very quick," former Lightning teammate Martin St. Louis told NHL.com.

It also made him somewhat predictable; so much so that defenses started to adjust to him by swinging coverage toward that side of the ice to ensure he wouldn't get the puck with time and space to bury a shot. It was the only way they could help their goaltender.

So Stamkos did the only thing he could do, the only thing smart players like him would do. He started to adjust to the defenses he was seeing. It has turned him into a complete player.

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Stars' Garbutt faces Player Safety hearing

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 10:54 AM / Department of Player Safety News

Dallas Stars forward Ryan Garbutt will have a hearing Thursday morning with the NHL Department of Player Safety for a slew-footing incident with the Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien during a game Tuesday at American Airlines Arena.

Garbutt and Byfuglien were pursuing a puck in the Winnipeg end when Garbutt knocked down Byfuglien at 13:22 of the third period. Garbutt was assessed a minor penalty for tripping. Byfuglien remained in the game.

The Jets won the game 5-2.

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Wild's Scandella faces Player Safety hearing

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 10:45 AM / Department of Player Safety News

Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella will have a hearing Wednesday night with the NHL Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head of New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson during a game Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.

Nelson was pursuing a puck in the Minnesota zone when Scandella hit Nelson at 17:32 of the third period. Scandella was assessed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head. Nelson remained in the game.

The Wild won the game 5-4.

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Quote of the Day

[He's] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing. We need that. He's such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That's the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.

— Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice on Mathieu Perreault, who scored two goals in win against Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday