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NHL Insider

Pickard opens eyes as feel-good story for Avalanche

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- There were no great expectations for Calvin Pickard when he reported to Colorado Avalanche training camp in September, not with Vezina Trophy finalist Semyon Varlamov and recent trade acquisition Reto Berra as the top two goalies.

"I wanted to make a good impression and make a statement that I'm close and ready to play at this level," Pickard said this week.

He probably didn't do either in his one preseason appearance, a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when he allowed four goals on 27 shots, but circumstances can change dramatically, and they certainly have for Pickard.

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Canadiens to honor Koivu for work on, off ice

Thursday, 12.18.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- The similarities are striking, albeit unmentionable.

A week after the Montreal Canadiens did a masterful job celebrating the life of the franchise's greatest ambassador and captain, they will attempt to do it again Thursday for another giant figure in Canadiens history prior to their game at Bell Centre against the Anaheim Ducks.

No, Saku Koivu cannot be compared to Jean Beliveau. Nobody can.

But if there is one Canadiens player who has come close since Beliveau's retirement as a player in 1971, or as close as can be reasonably expected of a human being, a strong argument could be made that it is Koivu.

Beliveau and Koivu captained the Canadiens for 10 years and was the best player on his respective team for a number of those years.

But the biggest legacy in the cases of each man is his spirit of generosity, involvement in the community, and genuine desire to make a difference in people’s lives.

"I think [Koivu] was a great captain," said Dr. David Mulder, the Canadiens' longtime chief surgeon who had unique relationships with Koivu and Beliveau. "I think there was only one Jean Beliveau."

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Five things to watch in Bruins vs. Wild

Wednesday, 12.17.2014 / 3:15 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

A lot was expected of the Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild heading into the season, but injuries and lack of production from key players have plagued each team through the first 30 games.

Boston has been without top center David Krejci since Nov. 18 because of a groin injury, and captain Zdeno Chara recently returned to the lineup after missing roughly a month with a knee injury.

Inconsistency has plagued the Wild more than anything else, led by forward Thomas Vanek's four goals in 29 games, but there is still time to figure things out and qualify for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here are five things to watch when the Wild host the Bruins at Xcel Energy Center in this week's edition of the Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN):

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Forsberg cherished time with Flyers despite injuries

Wednesday, 12.17.2014 / 10:26 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Peter Forsberg played 100 games with the Philadelphia Flyers but certainly left an impression, remembered as much for on-ice success as persistent injuries.

"It started really good," Forsberg said Tuesday as the Flyers honored him for his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame last month. "Me and [Simon] Gagne and that line started really well and we played so well. And it just got worse and worse."

The Flyers selected Forsberg with the sixth pick of the 1991 NHL Draft and attempted to bring him to North America for the 1992-93 season. But when Forsberg said he didn't feel NHL-ready, Philadelphia used him as the sweetener to complete a trade with the Quebec Nordiques in June 1992 for Eric Lindros.

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Parise is Wild's leader on and off the ice

Wednesday, 12.17.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In a season of injury, illness and inconsistency, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise has been the one veteran constant.

Statistically, Parise is off to his best start since signing with Minnesota in the summer of 2012. He has 23 points in 24 games entering Minnesota's Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN). If he keeps up that pace for the remainder of the season, he would be on track for his best offensive numbers since he scored 82 points in 81 games with the New Jersey Devils in 2009-10.

But while Parise has held up his end of the bargain as a veteran leader on a team with plenty of youth, it's been hard for the Wild to find a consistent groove this season.

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Canadiens counting on Price a little too much

Saturday, 12.13.2014 / 12:43 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

Carey Price
Goalie - MTL
RECORD: 16-8-1
GAA: 2.38 | SVP: .922

MONTREAL -- The Los Angeles Kings left Bell Centre on Friday like many other teams before them.

The Kings put 46 shots on goal, attempted 46 more against the Montreal Canadiens, and wound up with two goals and zero points in the standings.

"I think we came out with a good push early and didn't capitalize on chances," Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin said after a 6-2 loss they thoroughly controlled. "They got their opportunities and took advantage of it, and we were left kind of wondering, 'What's going on?'"

Carey Price was going on.

As dominant as the Kings were, the Canadiens goaltender was a bit more so. Price stopped all 28 shots through two periods, with 16 of them coming on five Kings power plays.

"We had a lot of really good chances; we totally dominated the first period," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I think Carey Price was really, really good, wasn't he?"

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Blues' Stastny surging as he sets to face Avalanche

Friday, 12.12.2014 / 4:18 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The numbers may not have reflected it earlier in the season, but for St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny, popping up on the score sheet more often recently is the reason why the Blues invested so heavily in him.

And the offensive numbers have accumulated just in time for Stastny to make his first appearance against the team he spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with, the Colorado Avalanche.

The Blues play the Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Saturday. Stastny missed the Blues' first game against the Avalanche on Nov. 1 after sustaining a shoulder injury, so this will be his first game against the only teammates he knew for eight years.

"You just want to get that first one out of the way, but I'm excited," said Stastny, who has seven goals and 12 points in 21 games with the Blues this season. "I think I have a lot of friends [in Denver], not just hockey-wise.

"Once the puck drops, it'll just feel like a normal game. Sometimes the anticipation takes longer than normal, but it's part of the business."

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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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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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Howard's strong play has Red Wings in contention

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Paul Harris - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- If you ask Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard what he is doing differently this season than in 2013-14, his response is "Nothing."

But, he adds, there is one difference.

Jimmy Howard
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 13-5-4
GAA: 2.21 | SVP: .917
"Just feel healthy, that's the biggest thing. I put in the work in the summertime," Howard said. "It [health] gives you the confidence to go out there and do your job."

Howard is 13-5-4 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .917 save percentage for Detroit, which has won seven of its past eight games. The Red Wings are 17-6-5 and on top of the Atlantic Division with 39 points heading into the Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA SPORTS).

Last season, Howard, 30, slumped with a 2.66 GAA after 2.12 and 2.13 the previous two seasons. He was hampered throughout 2013-14 with groin and shoulder injuries.

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Quote of the Day

It's time we got a break. People that have watched us, I'm sure they said, 'Finally, some things are going our way.' We'll take the breaks when they go our way.

— Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien after a 3-2 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday to snap a three-game losing streak
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