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(Page 8 of 8)'s 30 in 15

Young Backlund could be key for aging Flames

Tuesday, 09.20.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

With an average age of 29.35, the Calgary Flames were the NHL's second-oldest team last season. So it's hardly surprising the team would be focusing on one of their young prospects as a potential contributor for the 2010-11 season.

For a Flames team looking to improve on a season in which they barely missed the playoffs, the hope is Mikael Backlund can add a little extra this season.

On a team packed with veterans, Backlund was the only player among Calgary's top 22 scorers last season younger than 27. With 25 points in 73 games, that distinction has given the Flames hope that the 24th pick of 2007 Entry Draft can step up in his second full season in Calgary.

"Looking at one guy in particular that can help, a young player, it's got to be Mikael Backlund. I think he's ready to take on a bigger role," said Flames veteran forward Brendan Morrison. "He's very responsible defensively, but I think he has the potential to put up some bigger numbers and be an offensive guy for our team. I think he's ready for a breakout year."

Flames among best with advantage at home

Tuesday, 09.20.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist

Advantage Margin: +36
The Flames were a rarity -- they had more power plays than their opponents at home (plus-30) and on the road (plus-6)

Special Teams Goal Margin: +7
The Flames tied San Jose for the most power-play goals at home with 41 and they were second in success rate at 25.6 percent; on the road, they scored just 21 power-play goals and were next-to-last at 13.3 percent.

Goals by defensemen: 33
The Flames got a boost from Anton Babchuk, who scored eight times after coming over from Carolina. Mark Giordano went from 11 goals in 2009-10 to 8 last season, but had a career-high 43 points.

Overtime Record
Total: 11-5-7 OT: 2-5 SO: 9-7

The Flames had their best season ever in the shootout, winning nine times. They got a major boost from Alex Tanguay, who led all NHL scorers with 10 goals (in 16 tries) and tied for the lead with 4 game-deciding goals.

Sabres were true road warriors

Tuesday, 09.20.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist


Category Rank (Conference)
2010-11 Points 96 (7th East/15th NHL)
Change from 2009-10 -4
Home Points 46 (9th East/20th NHL)
Road Points 50 (4th East/10th NHL)
Advantage Margin: -21
The Sabres were among the NHL's best road teams despite spending a lot more time killing penalties (162 times shorthanded) than on the power play (140 advantages).

Special Teams Goal Margin: -8
Buffalo's power play outscored the opposition 54-51, but the penalty-killers managed only a pair of shorthanded goals while the power-play unit surrendered 13.

Goals by defensemen: 39
The Sabres got a big boost offensively from an unexpected source -- despite missing 11 games with injuries, Jordan Leopold scored 13 goals and finished with 35 points while averaging a team-high 23:19 of ice time per game. Tyler Myers recovered after a slow start to score 10 goals and finish with 37 points.

Leino happy to be in the middle for Sabres

Tuesday, 09.20.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Risto Pakarinen - Correspondent

Ville Leino
Left Wing - BUF
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 34 | PTS: 53
SOG: 117 | +/-: 14
Summer in Finland is short, sweet, and these days, hot. On July 1, however, no one was sweating more than Ville Leino, the 27-year-old free agent forward, who was fielding offers from several NHL teams.

"It was an ... interesting situation, with different offers coming in and having to make quick and big decisions," he told recently.

In the end, he chose to leave the Philadelphia Flyers for the Buffalo Sabres and their six-year, $27 million offer.

"I know it's a great team, since we played against them in the playoffs last season," Leino said of the Sabres. "Maybe they were even the better team, but the Flyers' experience finally tipped the scale to our advantage.

Expectations on the rise for Sabres

Tuesday, 09.20.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

Buffalo's season ended by the slimmest of margins -- a seventh-game loss against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A bounce this way or that way easily could have seen the Sabres advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
And while that was a bitter pill to swallow in western New York, there is plenty of reason to believe that the second-round drought could end this season.

Flames look to build off '10-11 strong second half

Tuesday, 09.20.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

For the Calgary Flames, the 2010-11 season was a tale of two teams. By the end of November, their 10-12-2 record was inciting calls for a roster shakeup and speculation that franchise cornerstone Jarome Iginla might be traded. But things turned around drastically when Jay Feaster took over as general manager.

When Darryl Sutter stepped down as the team's GM on Dec. 28, the Flames were 14th in the Western Conference with a 16-18-3 record. But from Jan. 11 to the end of the season, the team went 23-9-7, a wonderful run, but one that wasn't enough to get them into the postseason. After finishing just three points out of the eighth playoff spot, the team comes into the 2010-11 season looking to avoid the sluggish start that hurt it last season.

"We really want to build off the second half we had," forward Brendan Morrison told "We gained a lot of momentum in the second half and had a good push but came up short. It was a real positive to finish that way. Now the challenge is to start the season the way we finished (last season)."

Their opening-day roster likely will be nearly identical to the one that finished last season, which means the Flames again will be a veteran-laden squad. Last season's second-oldest team with an average age of 29.35, the Flames' top three scorers were at least 30, and of the 19 players who had at least 10 points, only one was younger than 27. So the Flames will remain dependent on their veterans, but might look to one or two prospects to make their imprint on the team.

Perry learning how to play tough and smart

Monday, 09.19.2011 / 9:59 AM /'s 30 in 15

Brian Hunter - Staff Writer

Corey Perry
Right Wing - ANA
GOALS: 50 | ASST: 48 | PTS: 98
SOG: 290 | +/-: 9
It's a fine line Corey Perry must walk, and last season he pulled off the balancing act to perfection.

In his sixth National Hockey League season, the Anaheim Ducks power forward came into his own as a goal scorer. Perry beat opposing goaltenders 50 times -- tops in the NHL and an improvement of 18 goals over his previous single-season high -- and finished with 98 points en route to capturing the Hart Trophy.

However, the Ducks also rely on the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Perry to provide a physical presence up front, and they've counted on him for that long before he developed into one of the League's elite offensive forces. Occasionally this means mixing it up and finding himself in the penalty box, where Perry has spent over 100 minutes in each of the last four seasons.

'Triple Gold' member Bergeron wants another title

Monday, 09.19.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Pete Jensen - Staff Writer

Each time Patrice Bergeron looks back at the celebratory summer following the Boston Bruins' first Stanley Cup since 1972, his hunger for another title grows.

"Once you taste it, you want more and want to do it again," Bergeron said during the recent NHL Player Media Tour. "I want to re-live the celebration after Game 7. Those memories help me in a matter of getting some confidence and knowing that we can accomplish great things as a team."

When Boston claimed the Cup last June, Bergeron became the 25th member of the "Triple Gold" club -- players who have won an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship and a Stanley Cup.

As he enters the prime of his career at age 26, Bergeron has made it a point to keep his experiences -- both good and bad -- in mind as he strives to help the Bruins repeat as champions, something they've never done since entering the NHL in 1924.

Hiller's health key component for Ducks' success

Sunday, 09.18.2011 / 11:59 PM /'s 30 in 15

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

As much of a relief it was to the Anaheim Ducks to have Teemu Selanne return, another development earlier this summer was just as critical.

Goalie Jonas Hiller pronounced himself healthy, and if he returns to the form he displayed early last season, it will have a huge impact on the Ducks and the standing in the Western Conference race.

"Jonas is back 100 percent and obviously that hurt us a lot not to have him last year," Selanne said. "I think he was maybe the best goalie in the league going into the All-Star break."

Bruins appear to have pieces for repeat performance

Sunday, 09.18.2011 / 11:59 PM /'s 30 in 15

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

BOSTON -- Now that the franchise's 39-year championship drought has ended, it's time for the Bruins to transition from celebrating their 2011 Stanley Cup title to seeking a repeat.

Unlike the Bruins' last Cup-winning club, in 1972, the 2011 edition of the Bruins was able to retain nearly its entire roster heading into the defense of its crown, so familiarity and chemistry shouldn't be a problem.

"We all agree that we have a great opportunity again this year. Everyone's very excited," forward Brad Marchand said. "We've only lost a couple guys, but (Benoit) Pouliot and (Joe) Corvo have come in and they're both great players. From what it looks like in camp, there's a lot of great young guys that are going to be battling for spots. So, yeah, we have a great shot again this year. We have to come in and make sure we don't take it for granted and think it's going to be easy because we won last year. But the way it looks, everyone is hungry."
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