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NHL Insider

Top all-time speed demons have changed face of NHL

Friday, 08.24.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Few things in any sport are as exciting as watching an elite skater blaze past an opponent, leaving him looking like he's standing still. End-to-end rushes and breakaways are the types of plays that bring fans out of their seats.

The speed of an NHL game has never been faster, as teams put more and more emphasis on skating. But not every great player is a great skater -- Wayne Gretzky, for one, admitted he wasn't all that fast -- and there are players who can fly but aren't as skilled in the other aspects of the game.

Still, there's no getting around the importance of speed. With that in mind, here's a look at seven of the fastest skaters in NHL history:

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Doughty's day with Cup honors grandparents

Thursday, 08.23.2012 / 6:49 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

LONDON, Ontario -- Drew Doughty's grandfather, Edward, was the first family member to pull up to his driveway Thursday morning. The 74-year-old didn't show up empty-handed, either. He carried with him a clear, homemade jug of white wine with a Guelph Storm logo painted on the side of it, "holy water" for hockey's holy grail, he called it.

Drew Doughty
Defense - LAK
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 26 | PTS: 36
SOG: 168 | +/-: -2

"He was lucky to win and lucky to be here," Edward said, before playfully poking fun at his advanced age. "I feel pretty lucky to be here too."

It was a special day for Doughty, the Los Angeles Kings' 22-year-old defenseman who had his day with the Stanley Cup two months after his team won hockey's biggest prize for the first time in franchise history. But long before Doughty paraded the Cup through his hometown, long before his brilliant goal in Game 2 of the Final against the New Jersey Devils, and long before he was drafted by the Kings in 2008 after a stellar career at Guelph, he was relying on extended and adopted family to get his career started.

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After eventful summer, Keenan hopes for NHL return

Thursday, 08.23.2012 / 5:06 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

It has been more than three years since Mike Keenan last served as coach of an NHL team. His up-and-down run involving eight teams over 25 years ended in 2009, when he led the Calgary Flames to their last Stanley Cup Playoff appearance.

But after an eventful summer, the man known as "Iron Mike" is still hoping for another shot in the NHL.

For Keenan, things picked up markedly in April, when he was announced as the new coach of the Canadian hockey team for the 2013 Maccabiah Games, an international sporting event in Israel in which thousands of Jewish athletes representing dozens of countries compete in more than 30 sports. For Keenan, whose ex-wife is Jewish and whose daughter was raised in the faith, it was a unique opportunity.

"I have a real sense of the faith and the people. My mother-in-law escaped Auschwitz [concentration camp] and I went to Auschwitz in 1972 and had conversations with her after that," Keenan told NHL.com. "My involvement is deeper than hockey. That's a large reason why I wanted to get involved."

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Tortorella sees Nash as good fit with Rangers

Friday, 08.17.2012 / 9:02 AM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Rick Nash
Left Wing - NYR
GOALS: 30 | ASST: 29 | PTS: 59
SOG: 306 | +/-: -19
John Tortorella has yet to speak to Rick Nash in person, but the New York Rangers coach likes what he's heard.

"The thing I like about Nash -- and I haven't even met him face to face -- in one conversation with him, he's all business," Tortorella told the website Blueshirts United on Thursday. "Everyone I have talked to about him says he's not a real high-maintenance guy -- [he] wants to play hard, wants to play every day and practice every day. I think we have him at a really good time in his career, and I think he's going to fit in with us tremendously."

Tortorella, known for his no-nonsense approach and the competitive nature of his teams, is confident Nash will fit in despite never winning a Stanley Cup Playoff game -- the Blue Jackets made the postseason just once in his nine seasons with Columbus.

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Lundqvist played 'toughest period' in Sweden

Thursday, 08.16.2012 / 6:03 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Henrik Lundqvist played in two Game 7s and lost an elimination game in overtime during last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the New York Rangers goaltender said the most difficult period he played was in a preseason game in his native Sweden last season.

"That first period was probably the toughest period I ever played," Lundqvist said Wednesday in an interview with Blueshirts United. "I was just thinking about all the years I played there."

The Rangers defeated Frolunda, Lundqvist's former club, 4-2 on Sept. 30 in Gothenburg as part of the NHL Premiere Challenge.

Lundqvist played in Frolunda from 1998 through 2005.

"You know, growing up, that was the club I wanted to play for," Lundqvist said. "It was my dream to play there, I won two championships there. And so many people helped me there, too, to reach my next level.

"And obviously, to have my brother there and my family there, it was a great moment in my career."

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Hartsburg hopes to create new identity in Columbus

Thursday, 08.16.2012 / 5:06 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

It's been an interesting summer for Craig Hartsburg. Following a disappointing lone season as associate coach in Calgary, the longtime player and coach was scooped up by the Columbus Blue Jackets and given arguably the most challenging mission of his career -- establish a new identity for a last-place team that just traded its only All Star. And he can't wait to get started.

A former head coach in Chicago, Anaheim, and Ottawa, Hartsburg was released in June after the Flames hired Bob Hartley to take over the team. Barely two weeks later, the Blue Jackets hired him to round out the staff of Todd Richards, who was officially named the team's head coach in May after taking over on an interim basis last January. On the heels of one of the most eventful offseasons in franchise history, Hartsburg is looking forward to rebuilding the Jackets.

"It will be an interesting challenge. I'm really excited about helping Columbus build a strong identity and culture that we can have for a number of years," Hartsburg told NHL.com. "We know we're a team that has changed over the last two, three months. It's exciting that we can start to build something and put our stamp on it as coaches."

While Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson made a number of roster changes over the summer, the biggest without a doubt was the July trade of franchise cornerstone Rick Nash to the Rangers. With the face of the Blue Jackets now gone, the job of establishing a brand new identity for the team falls squarely on Richards and Hartsburg.

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Yakupov can't wait to start NHL career with Oilers

Thursday, 08.16.2012 / 4:23 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Nail Yakupov arrived in Edmonton this week ready to prepare for the start of his first professional season. (Photo: Getty Images)

NHL training camps aren't scheduled to open for another month, but Nail Yakupov isn't ready to wait that long. Yakupov, the first pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, arrived in Edmonton this week ready to prepare for the start of his first professional season.

"I started working out with the guys," he told reporters Thursday. "Just seeing my place and just be here. There's nothing to do in Russia. Just have to start work and get ready for camp."

Yakupov had 31 goals and 38 assists in 42 games last season with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. He also helped Russia win the silver medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship, leading to the Oilers selecting him with the first pick in June.

He got an early start to his season by participating in the Canada-Russia Challenge, which ended earlier this week after two games in Moscow and two games in Halifax, N.S. The games were a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the famed 1972 Summit Series, as well as a tribute to Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team that was wiped out in a plane crash last year.

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A look at who's on the hot seat in the West

Thursday, 08.16.2012 / 12:39 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

With summer quickly moving toward fall and teams looking toward the new season, here's a look at a player from each of the 15 teams in the Western Conference who'll be under pressure to perform as soon as the puck drops:

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim -- After averaging more than a point a game for four consecutive seasons, Getzlaf plummeted to 11 goals and 57 points in 82 games in 2011-12 -- and, not coincidentally, the Ducks failed to make the playoffs. Getzlaf, whose struggles also affected linemate Corey Perry, has to have a major bounce-back season if the Ducks are to have any hopes of returning to the top eight in the West -- and if he hopes to earn a new contract.

Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary -- Eight years after he led the Flames within one victory of the Stanley Cup, Kiprusoff is still the most important player on a Calgary team that hasn't contended for a title since 2004 and has missed the playoffs three years running. Kiprusoff is coming off an excellent season (35-22-11, 2.35 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) and has 35 or more wins in seven straight seasons. But he'll have to be even better if the Flames are to get off the treadmill of just missing the playoffs.

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A look at who's on the hot seat in the East

Wednesday, 08.15.2012 / 1:55 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Summer continues to melt like a Popsicle on a sidewalk. Teams are less than a month away from training camps. It's almost time for another NHL season, and the pressure already is starting to build for some players who know they'll have to be big-time producers for their teams to improve or contend.

Here's a look at a player from each of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference who will be under pressure to perform as soon as the puck drops:

Tuukka Rask, Boston -- With Tim Thomas taking a year off, the No. 1 goaltending job in Boston belongs to Rask, who is coming off a groin injury in March that brought his season to an early conclusion. Rask, who signed a one-year deal this summer, provided a safety net behind Thomas, but he's flying solo now and will be expected to carry the load in goal for a team that feels it's more than capable of regaining the Stanley Cup it failed to retain last spring.

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Crosby not only star hoping to rebound from injury

Thursday, 08.09.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Can Sidney Crosby stay healthy for a full season? That's the question that again hovers over the Pittsburgh Penguins as they prepare for 2012-13.

While the Pens hope Crosby can stay healthy, there are other notable players coming off injury-plagued campaigns that are being counted on heavily to rebound. (Photo: Getty Images)

Pittsburgh's captain played only 22 regular-season games in 2011-12, missing the other 60 as he dealt with concussion-related issues. That came on the heels of missing the second half of 2010-11 and all of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the same reason.

The good news for the Penguins is that Crosby was his usual self when he returned for good on March 15 -- he showed no ill effects and put up 37 regular-season points, as well as eight in Pittsburgh's six playoff contests. The bad news is he hasn't played a full season since 2009-10, and has played only those 22 games since going down with a concussion on Jan. 5, 2011.

Crosby isn't the only key player who's working to come back from an injury that put a hole in his 2011-12 season or ended it early. Here are seven other players whose return is critical to their teams' success.

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Quote of the Day

I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride. I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years. I could have never played for so long or accomplished all that I have without the unwavering love and support from my wife, Heather, our three sons, Ryan, Lucas, and Mason, and my parents.

— Martin St. Louis after announcing his retirement from the NHL on Thursday