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(Page 4 of 8)'s 30 in 15

Spezza envisions quick turnaround in Ottawa

Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Sergei J. Feldman - Staff Writer

Take one look at the Ottawa Senators lineup and you'll notice a theme: youth.

Of the 36 players currently listed on the team roster, 21 of them are 25 years old or younger.

There also are a number of experienced veterans age 30 and older, like captain Daniel Alfredsson, defensemen Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips and Filip Kuba, and goalie Craig Anderson. Standing between both groups is 28-year-old center Jason Spezza.

Just before training camp opened, Spezza reflected on a tough 2010-11 season and looked ahead to the possibility of bigger and better things for the Senators in 2011-12.

Arrival of Richards, Gagne raise expectations in L.A.

Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

Move around the Los Angeles Kings' practice facility these days and there is a business-like approach and a confident sense of transition.

Mike Richards and Simon Gagne have been skating with their new teammates for weeks and have given the returning players a feeling of renewal after the club's deflating first-round playoff loss to San Jose.

"I think we matured last year, but at the same time we did lose to a great team," defenseman Jack Johnson said. "I think this year we're excited because we kind of feel like we're a new team."

Senators relishing chance to prove pundits wrong

Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Erin Nicks - Correspondent

After finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference last season, the Ottawa Senators realize the road back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs may be a tough one to navigate. However, the players believe success won't take as long to achieve.

"We've been talking about (a redemption year) all summer," defenseman Chris Phillips said. "We were very disappointed with the way things went last year. Obviously man-to-man, you want to go out and have good seasons and play the best you can as a team. But you look at where a lot of people have us slated and the expectations, and that's the nature of hockey players -- we want to go out and prove people wrong."

Richards addition raises Rangers expectations

Monday, 09.26.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Two seasons ago, the Rangers were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season. Last season, the Rangers qualified for the playoffs on the season's final day, only to lose in five games in the first round against the Washington Capitals.

This season, the Rangers believe they are ready to take another step forward in the face of raised expectations.

"I think that's good," said center Brad Richards, the Rangers' marquee free-agent addition this summer and the No. 1 reason for the added optimism. "It's better to be on a team that has expectations and wants to win. The last couple years (in Dallas), when we started a season, it was, 'Can we make the playoffs?' I'd rather be on a team that expects (to win). That'll push us, hopefully."

The 2010-11 season saw the Rangers finish with 93 points despite missing a slew of important players for long stretches due to injury. Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan, who was named the team's captain Sept. 12, were just a few who battled injuries. Backup goaltender Martin Biron suffered a broken collarbone late in the season, forcing Henrik Lundqvist to start the team's final 31 games.

Richards looking forward to glare of New York

Monday, 09.26.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

The hockey world was Brad Richards' oyster this summer. As the gold medal of a free-agent class filled mostly with fourth-place ribbons, Richards was pursued heavily by a plethora of NHL executives desperate to land the top-flight center.

"It's going to be a challenge, for sure. It's going to be something different. I haven't experienced it, but if you want to be a good player or a great player, that's something you should relish. What better place to try to perform every night than Madison Square Garden? That's a dream come true."
-- Brad Richards

Richards spent July 1 holding court in Toronto, where teams made their aggressive pitches to the 31-year-old, who has a Stanley Cup, a Conn Smythe Trophy and 716 points in 772 NHL games on his resume. Just some of the suitors who offered him tremendous amounts of money were the Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers.

For a player who was born in a town (Murray Harbour, PEI) with a population of about 500 and played his entire career in the non-traditional hockey markets of Dallas and Tampa, it was a whirlwind of attention the likes of which Richards hasn't seen all that often. When it came time for him to decide where he would likely spend the rest of his career, he showed he's not afraid of playing in the spotlight.

He chose New York.

Rangers unbeaten when leading after two periods

Monday, 09.26.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist

Advantage Margin: +33
All of the Rangers' extra power plays came at Madison Square Garden, where New York had 151 advantages while allowing just 118. Both the Rangers and their opponents had 139 power-play chances on the road.

Special Teams Goal Margin: +13
The Rangers were fifth in the NHL in fewest power-play goals allowed with just 42 and helped themselves by scoring 11 times while shorthanded.

Goals by defensemen: 27
The Rangers still are looking for a big gun on the blue line -- Dan Girardi, known more for his League-leading total of blocked shots, topped all New York defensemen with 31 points, while partner Marc Staal was first with 7 goals.

Overtime Record
Total: 12-2-3 OT: 3-2 SO: 9-3

The Rangers made the playoffs because of their shootout prowess. Erik Christensen and Mats Zuccarello both scored five times and converted more than 55 percent of their chances, while Henrik Lundqvist was 7-3 with a save percentage of .848 on a League-high 46 chances.

Oilers players are tired of long vacations

Monday, 09.26.2011 / 12:01 AM /'s 30 in 15

Sergei J. Feldman - Staff Writer

After back-to-back finishes at the bottom of the National Hockey League standings and five straight seasons out of the playoffs, the Edmonton Oilers have had to live with a few long offseasons.

As 2011-12 approaches, the message from the players is simple: Enough is enough.

"It was long again, unfortunately," team captain Shawn Horcoff told about his offseason. "I think we're all sick and tired of that and really looking forward to the season and getting back to the playoffs here soon."

That mentality is admirable, to be sure. But as to whether it's realistic, the proof will have to be in the pudding that is an 82-game regular season.

Hall eager to do damage in second season

Monday, 09.26.2011 / 12:01 AM /'s 30 in 15

Deborah Francisco - Staff Writer

It was a year of firsts for Taylor Hall last season -- first NHL season, first point, first goal, first hat trick, first fight, first Gordie Howe hat trick and first season-ending injury. Unfortunately for Hall, they happened in that order.

"There were a lot of firsts this year and, for the most part, it was great," Hall told

However, there was one night last season Hall never will forget.

It was the night he engaged in his first career fight, and consequently earned his first serious hockey injury.

Islanders look to take big step forward

Sunday, 09.25.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist

New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow has spent the last four years rebuilding, working to assemble a base of young talent after taking over a franchise that was relying on pickups and free agents due to years of poor drafting and trading.

There was plenty of optimism entering last season, but injuries derailed the Islanders -- they lost more than 600 man-games to injury and finished 13th in the Eastern Conference. Snow fired coach Scott Gordon before Thanksgiving and brought up Jack Capuano from the Isles' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport to take over on an interim basis.

Despite the barrage of injuries -- they played six goaltenders and 15 defensemen -- Capuano righted the ship and the Islanders were among the NHL's more successful teams from Christmas through late March, before they ran out of healthy bodies, especially on defense. The improvement under Capuano, however, earned him a full-time job -- and the continuing influx of young talent has Snow feeling that his rebuild is about to pay off.

"We're in Year 4 of it, and if you look at the players who are playing for us -- John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, we were fortunate enough to get Michael Grabner on waivers, Travis Hamonic, Andrew McDonald, and right on down the line -- you see a good nucleus of core players that will help us to be in a position to bring a Stanley Cup back to Long Island," he said.

Tavares aiming to stay on upward climb

Sunday, 09.25.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

John Tavares celebrated his 21st birthday Sept. 20. While most hockey players that age still are fighting their way up the professional ladder, Tavares will be preparing for his third NHL season with the New York Islanders.

"Every year I want to keep improving and keep getting better and I'm trying to become one of the elite players in the League and help our team get back to where we should be and where we could be. It's a new responsibility trying to take my game to another level."
-- John Tavares

"Ricky (DiPietro) is calling me a veteran and I'm just turning 21," Tavares told "It's hard to believe, but I'm excited for it. Every year I want to keep improving and keep getting better and I'm trying to become one of the elite players in the League and help our team get back to where we should be and where we could be. It's a new responsibility trying to take my game to another level."

Tavares has been through a lot in his first two professional seasons. In 2009-10, he carried the burden of being that year's No. 1 draft pick. He immediately became the Isles' No. 1 center and had 24 goals and 30 assists for a club that finished 13th in the Eastern Conference.

Last season was loaded with ups and downs. While Tavares saw his numbers improve -- he had 29 goals and led the club with 67 points -- the Islanders struggled so badly in November that Scott Gordon was removed as coach after 10 straight losses and replaced by Jack Capuano. New York improved dramatically in the second half of the season, which has Tavares excited for the fall.
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