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NHL Insider

Vokoun returns to Nashville, reflects on career

Sunday, 03.01.2015 / 11:05 AM / NHL Insider

NASHVILLE -- Longtime NHL goaltender Tomas Vokoun returned to Nashville this past week to be honored after spending eight seasons as a member of the Nashville Predators from 1998-2007.

Vokoun was honored by Nashville during its game Thursday against the Minnesota Wild and participated in an alumni game against the Detroit Red Wings alumni following Nashville’s game against Detroit on Saturday. Vokoun led Nashville’s alumni to a 9-8 shootout win.

Vokoun played in 700 games in 15 seasons before deciding to retire this past December. While there are some aspects of being an NHL player that he said he misses, Vokoun doesn’t have any regrets about making the decision to retire.

“When I was retiring, two things happened,” Vokoun said. “I still felt like I could have played at a high level, but I also understood the role I would have or the opportunities I had in the market, where I would kind of stand. I thought it was work for me to leave my family for eight months and being the guy who’s maybe a few months here and a few months there.

“Truthfully I’m not sure what my answer should be. I do not miss playing. I think I miss a lot of parts of being a hockey player and being with the guys every day and the comradery, traveling and all that. I do not miss dressing up every day and getting hit with the puck 700 times. When things aren’t going well, obviously a lot of pressure and stuff like that. I don’t have that now. I have different kinds of pressures.”

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NHL teams learning from other sports at Sloan

Sunday, 03.01.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Most hockey fans probably have no idea who Michael Niemeyer is. Many of them probably do know who Shane Battier is.

Niemeyer is the head of match analysis for FC Bayern, one of the most successful soccer clubs in the world. Battier played in the NBA for 13 seasons after a decorated college career at Duke and now works for ESPN.

They were among the featured panelists at the 2015 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and though it might not seem like they have anything to do with hockey, at this two-day event they can. The conference, in its ninth year, has grown into a massive gathering of analytically-inclined minds from all types of sports.

"It is great. I've been coming here for five years," Washington Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman said. "It just opens your eyes to what people are doing in other sports, what they're doing, what the themes and trends are. As you can see, the conference has grown immensely in popularity. For our sport in particular, there's not that much content. It is growing, but it is a great eye-opener."

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Jagr finds 'new motivation' in debut with Panthers

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 7:47 PM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Wearing a T-shirt and a smile, Jaromir Jagr talked about his Florida Panthers debut in an interview room at BB&T Center that hadn't been used since the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jagr didn't have a storybook first game with the Panthers (he was held off the scoresheet against the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-3 win), but all that mattered to him was the result.

"I wish I could score, but it doesn't matter. We won," Jagr said. "It's new motivation. When you come to a new team, you just want the first game to be a victory and I'm happy about that."

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Dubas explains value of hockey analytics at Sloan

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 5:50 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Kyle Dubas was putting the finishing touches on his list of prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft when he noticed a troubling trend.

The ones who played in the IIHF World Junior Championship were, relatively speaking, ranked higher than similar prospects who did not. Dubas found this to be a form of bias, something he was desperately trying to weed out of his rankings.

"Does playing in the world juniors at 17 make you a better prospect than someone that doesn't?" Dubas said during his presentation of "How Analytics has Limited the Impact of Cognitive Bias on Personnel Decisions" at the 2015 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. "I don't think so. I think we know that from years of going through and measuring at different points."

Dubas, whose hire as an assistant general manager by the Toronto Maple Leafs was the highlight of the NHL's "Summer of Analytics" in 2014, spoke for more than 20 minutes Saturday about his experiences as general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

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NHL pioneer O'Ree continues to command respect

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 3:18 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds has met Willie O'Ree before, but said he hasn't earned the right to address O'Ree on a first-name basis.

"It's Mr. O'Ree," Simmonds said before talking to O'Ree and posing for pictures with him in the Flyers' locker room Saturday. "He's my elder; treat him with respect. … My parents taught me who he was at an early age. I've looked up to him for so long. Going to be a great opportunity to talk to him again."

O'Ree became the first black man to play in the NHL when he made his debut with the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958. O'Ree said he's proud to be called a pioneer and the Jackie Robinson of professional hockey.

"I never get tired," O'Ree said. "It's the thing that I experienced. When I broke the color barrier in 1958 it seemed to stick with me. The media called me the Jackie Robinson of hockey and I'm very happy to be in the same category of Mr. Robinson. I met Mr. Robinson on two occasions; I met him in 1949 in Brooklyn and I met him again in 1962 when he was the keynote speaker at a luncheon in Los Angeles. … He made a big impact with me. I'm just happy when they say there's Willie O'Ree, he's the Jackie Robinson of hockey."

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Rangers' Boyle finally adjusting to new role

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- A broken hand opening night, multiple illnesses that he never before had to deal with, inconsistent play that hadn't existed previously, and a reduced role that hurt his confidence. Dan Boyle didn't expect his first season with the New York Rangers to be as frustrating on a personal level as it has been.

At 38 years old, Boyle knew his days as a No. 1 defenseman were done, particularly because he signed with a team that already featured Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. But Boyle didn't think he'd have to deal with as much change and adversity as he's had to this season.

"That's been the most frustrating thing about this year for me, just trying to stay steady with that confidence level," Boyle said. "It's hard when you're not used to this."

It looks like it's finally getting easier for Boyle; he at least feels it is. So does McDonagh. So does Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who said Boyle had one of his best games of the season Thursday in a 4-3 win against the Arizona Coyotes.

Though it might have taken until late February, it appears the Rangers finally are seeing the skilled, slick-skating, puck-rushing defenseman they thought they were getting when they signed Boyle to a two-year, $9 million contract July 1.

New York carries a 10-game point streak (8-0-2) into its game Saturday at the Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. ET; NBC, City). Boyle has been in the lineup and contributing in various ways every game.

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Ekman-Larsson is Coyotes' foundation moving ahead

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- It's not totally out of the realm of possibility because nothing is when it comes to trades at this time of the season, but the Arizona Coyotes might have a better chance of storming back into the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference than general manager Don Maloney has of trading all-star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

The Coyotes are 24 points out of a playoff spot and in seller's mode heading into the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline on Monday at 3 p.m. ET. Their hope is to secure some assets and get a good position for the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery in order to enhance their rebuild.

Ekman-Larsson, 23, is the foundation for Arizona's rebuild.

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Clarkson looking forward to fresh start in Columbus

Friday, 02.27.2015 / 3:51 PM / NHL Insider

Craig Merz - NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets think they see in forward David Clarkson many of the traits present in some of the their top players.

"He's gritty. He plays the 200 feet and he's scored a lot of goals in this League," left wing Nick Foligno said. "He's going to help us on the offensive side but also defensively and being a hard person to play against. That's what we pride ourselves on.

"He's going to be another person to solidify that identity."

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Tlusty reunited with old friends upon trade to Jets

Friday, 02.27.2015 / 3:48 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- Approximately 6,000 miles separate the Czech city of Kladno and MTS Centre, the home of the Winnipeg Jets.

However, three childhood friends find themselves in the same landing spot after the Jets acquired left wing Jiri Tlusty from the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.

The trade uprooted Tlusty, 26, from a team he played for since he was 21 years old and where he grew into a full-time NHL player.

Tlusty joins two fellow Czechs, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and right wing Michael Frolik, but the ties between the three players go far beyond that.

"[Tlusty] texted me right away when he knew," Frolik said. "It was a little bit of a shocker."

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Devils believe spot in playoffs remains possible

Friday, 02.27.2015 / 2:28 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils remain a confident group despite the trade of forward Jaromir Jagr on Thursday and the precarious situation they find themselves in during their pursuit of a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with six weeks remaining in the regular season.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello traded Jagr to the Florida Panthers, one of three teams that are between New Jersey and the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot held by the Boston Bruins.

The Devils received a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2016 for Jagr.

"You knew there was a possibility that it could happen," Devils defenseman Andy Greene said of the Jagr trade. "You just never know if it might happen now, Monday [at the NHL Trade Deadline] or if they would do it at all. I think the return they got is great. It's a move [Lamoriello] felt comfortable doing, and by no means does it mean he's giving up on us.

"It's a hockey move and he had to make a trade, make a decision."

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Quote of the Day

I've got a lot of experience and there's a lot of young guys. It's even making me excited a little more. It's kind of a new life. At my age, I feel like I know a lot of things what to do, but I just cannot do it anymore. It's a lot easier to tell them what to do because they've still got the legs and hands to do it. I just know things, but I cannot do them anymore.

— Jaromir Jagr after making his Panthers debut in a win against the Sabres on Saturday