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NHL Insider

Habs coach Therrien reflective in return to Pittsburgh

Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 3:47 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Just before being dropped off at the still-new Consol Energy Center on Tuesday morning, Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien looked across Centre Avenue and saw a parking lot on the site where he once coached in a Stanley Cup Final.

"I was asking the taxi driver what they're going to do with that space," the former Pittsburgh Penguins coach said of the site where Mellon Arena once stood. "I've got some great memories from my time there."

For the first time since being fired by the Penguins four years ago, Therrien is back serving as a National Hockey League coach in Pittsburgh. His Canadiens play the Penguins on Tuesday night in a game matching the two teams at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Therrien kept his home in suburban Pittsburgh in between NHL coaching jobs, and he worked as a scout for the Minnesota Wild in the interim. That meant he frequently had a seat in the press box at Consol, a building he called "first-class."

Staal stands to reap benefits from Semin re-signing

Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 1:45 PM / NHL Insider

Kurt Dusterberg - Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- For most of Eric Staal's career, the Carolina Hurricanes have been looking for the just-right forward to play on the top line with the team captain.

For the next five seasons, Carolina has its man.

When the Hurricanes signed Alexander Semin to a five-year, $35-million extension Monday, they did so knowing the two players had built an undeniable chemistry over the first 30 games of the season. At times in recent years, Staal labored as a variety of players took turns on Carolina's top line.

Eric Staal
Center - CAR
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 35
SOG: 97 | +/-: 19
"We knew we had to get a guy who had a level equal to Eric," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "Some people say we took a chance, but we tried it and it's worked out well."

That "chance" was signing Semin to a one-year free-agent deal last summer. Semin, an elite scoring forward in Washington for six seasons, had fallen out of favor with the Capitals. His points-per-game had declined for three straight seasons. But Carolina quickly proved to be a place where he could thrive again.

"(It's) a good team for me. It's new life," Semin said. "This is a good place to play hockey."

In particular, Semin has built a strong relationship with Muller.

Why the Flyers aren't living up to expectations

Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 1:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

At the 2011 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers made three franchise-altering moves, dealing away centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and signing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract.

The struggles of Claude Giroux and the gradual erosion of the defense corps has combined to leave Philadelphia on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture. (Photo: Getty Images)

Bryzgalov was supposed to be the franchise goaltender the Flyers had spent the last quarter-century searching for, while offensively the hope was a few players would be able to step into the scoring void left by the two departing all-stars.

The 2011-12 season saw things go backward for the Flyers. They finished as the second-highest scoring team in the League, carried by their top line of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr, along with major contributions from depth players like Wayne Simmonds, Maxime Talbot and Sean Couturier. Bryzgalov, expected to play at the same high level he had displayed with the Phoenix Coyotes, struggled for most of the season, and the Flyers were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The common belief was that in 2012-13, Bryzgalov would shake off his first-season troubles and return to being a top-tier netminder, while the Flyers' offense would continue to sizzle. A number of prognosticators considered the Flyers contenders for the Atlantic Division title and a top-four playoff seed in the East.

However, they enter their game Tuesday against the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) 13th in the Eastern Conference, five points out of a playoff spot, and their 16 regulation losses are tied for the second-most in the League.

Comparing Penguins' streak to Blackhawks' run

Monday, 03.25.2013 / 2:35 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

When the Chicago Blackhawks ripped off 24 games without a regulation loss to start the season, it included an 11-game winning streak. The Blackhawks fell six short of the NHL record set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992-93.

Nearly three weeks after that streak came to a close, the modern-day Penguins are taking an even stronger run at the 17-game mark set by their predecessors.

Trailing 1-0 entering the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night, Sidney Crosby tied the game with a power-play goal and Tyler Kennedy won it in overtime to give the Penguins their 12th win in a row. The Penguins now trail the Blackhawks by just one point in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, although Chicago has played three fewer games.

Former Dallas teammates sad to see Morrow depart

Monday, 03.25.2013 / 2:15 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

DALLAS -- On the one hand, Brenden Morrow's now-former Dallas Stars teammates weren't surprised to hear he had been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.

That's because they had been hearing rumors of Morrow being dealt for several weeks now, but now that he is officially a Penguin, several Stars took time after Monday's morning skate to reflect on their former captain.

"It's hard to see," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "He's a very good teammate, good friend. He was our captain. He led by example. It's tough to see a guy like that go, a character guy like that. It's part of the business and we all know it can happen to anybody."

With the departure of Morrow, who with 13 seasons under his belt had been Dallas' longest-tenured player, defenseman Trevor Daley, who has been with the Stars since 2003, now holds that distinction.

"Definitely going into a good situation. I got a chance to talk to James Neal yesterday, too, and they're ecstatic to have him [in Pittsburgh]," Daley said. "Obviously, on the other side it's disappointing to see another guy gone. But at the end of the day, it is a business."

Three issues determined Boucher's fate in 2012-13

Sunday, 03.24.2013 / 12:11 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

It was less than two years ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning were one bounce of the puck from advancing to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

Under the leadership of first-year coach Guy Boucher and his innovative 1-3-1 forechecking scheme, the Lightning totaled 103 points and pushed the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. With rising superstar Steven Stamkos, as well as top-end veterans like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, the Lightning were viewed as a team on the rise with an incredibly bright future.

Less than two years later, the Lightning on Sunday fired Boucher with the team languishing in 14th place in the Eastern Conference heading into its game Sunday night at the Winnipeg Jets.

How did things go so wrong so fast for the Lightning? There are a few reasons:

Ruff, Cooper could be on Yzerman's list of candidates

Sunday, 03.24.2013 / 11:19 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Guy Boucher's former assistants, Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix, will handle the coaching duties for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday when they play at the Winnipeg Jets.

How long the Raymond-Lacroix split lasts remains to be seen, but it doesn't figure to be much longer than just the one game.

The Lightning play again Tuesday at home against the Buffalo Sabres.

If you believe some of the speculation that began Sunday morning, when the hockey world woke to the news that Boucher had been fired, Tuesday night could be quite an interesting one because Lindy Ruff's name among the most talked about as a potential full-time replacement for Boucher.

Ruff spent 16-plus seasons coaching the Sabres before being fired earlier this season. He knows Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman, knows the Eastern Conference, and probably is hungry to coach again since he didn't leave Buffalo on his own accord.

Back in NHL, Hartley attacks challenges in Calgary

Friday, 03.22.2013 / 4:28 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

Bob Hartley refuses to call his mission a rebuilding project, something that can be hard to sell in a Canadian market. (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI)
After the Calgary Flames lost for the eighth straight time on the road Thursday, coach Bob Hartley did not look like a man who was enjoying his return to the NHL after a five-year hiatus.

But go back a few hours earlier after his team completed an optional skate and his love for what he does could not be hidden.

"When you coach in the NHL, it's not a job, it's a privilege," said Hartley, who won the Stanley Cup in 2001 as the coach of the Colorado Avalanche. "We're coaching the best hockey players in the world in the best hockey league in the world. As a kid, you're 6, you're 8, you're 10, you're 12, you're playing on the pond, you're playing in the rink, you're playing in the street, you dream of playing in the NHL.

"Well, obviously, that didn't happen for me, but later on the kid in me got behind the bench. That's certainly a big thrill. Like I said, that's a privilege for me. You have to be grateful for every day you step into an NHL arena, because you can't go higher than this."

Pavelec's workload a storyline as Jets chase playoffs

Friday, 03.22.2013 / 3:05 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- An uneasy question permeates nearly every storyline surrounding the Winnipeg Jets this month, and it does not even concern the NHL Trade Deadline.

To what extent should coach Claude Noel rely on workhorse goaltender Ondrej Pavelec heading down the stretch?

The Jets lead the Southeast Division with a 16-13-2 record, putting the franchise in position to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007. With a young core starved for postseason experience, pressure exists inside and outside the organizational brain trust to do nearly anything necessary to keep the Jets in the Eastern Conference's top eight at the end of April.

But memories of March 2012 remain fresh in Winnipeg. Pavelec sputtered down the stretch last season with the Jets in the midst of a playoff race. Starting 13 games that month, he went just 5-7-1 with a 3.13 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage as the Jets faded from Eastern Conference contention.

Moulson making most of time with Islanders

Friday, 03.22.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The summer of 2009 was a crucial one for Matt Moulson. Indeed, he had a lot on his plate.

Matt Moulson
Left Wing - NYI
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 32
SOG: 104 | +/-: -9

Not only was he set to become an unrestricted free agent after three seasons in the Los Angeles Kings organization (mostly spent in the American Hockey League), but he was ready to take the next step in his personal life.

He wanted to pop the question to his girlfriend, Alicia.

"I needed to make the NHL to buy the ring -- or she was going to get one of those vending-machine rings," Moulson told

Searching for help up front, the rebuilding New York Islanders -- who selected John Tavares with the first pick in the NHL Draft a week earlier -- came calling when the free-agent market opened July 1.

Friends since their childhood in Ontario, Moulson quickly phoned Tavares and informed him of the Islanders' interest.

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Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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