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NHL Insider

Undefeated Blackhawks gear up for tough road trip

Wednesday, 01.30.2013 / 11:18 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are zipping along right now, with all signs pointing toward more success.

What's directly ahead, however, is a pretty tall order -- even for a team as hot as Chicago (6-0-0), which set a new franchise record Sunday for wins to start a season by beating the rival Detroit Red Wings.

After playing their first six games in just nine days (four on the road), the Blackhawks will start a tough six-game road trip Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild (3-2-1) in the second installment of NBC Sports Network’s "Rivalry Night" series.

Chicago will be on the road for 14 days while "Disney on Ice" occupies United Center -- and a fairy tale ending isn't guaranteed for the Blackhawks. This trip likely will be a good measuring stick.

Zibanejad took bumpy road back to Senators

Wednesday, 01.30.2013 / 9:10 AM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

On Oct. 27, 2011, when the Ottawa Senators decided to send one of their top prospects home to Sweden, the consensus was that Mika Zibanejad would be back in the NHL soon enough.

After a nine-game trial with Ottawa to start last season, Zibanejad, the sixth pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, was dispatched to his home country, where he played for Djurgardens IF Stockholm of the Swedish Elite League. When Zibanejad scored the golden goal in overtime to beat Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championship, the perception was he would have no trouble making it to Ottawa again.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Scotiabank Place.

Through the lockout, the Senators keyed on properly developing their prized prospect. Before the 2013 WJC, they insisted he remain with their American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton rather than compete for a chance to repeat as tournament champions.

Gretzky still enthused about his fantasy camp

Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 8:06 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Eleven years into the project, Wayne Gretzky still feels the same amount of excitement and has the same enthusiastic drive to run his annual fantasy camp as he did when he started it back in 2002.

"It really is a pure love," Gretzky told Tuesday from the Bellagio, the host hotel for his annual event.

"My brother-in-law [Mike Brown], who unfortunately passed away because of cancer [in July 2010], he was really the guy who sat me down and said, 'Listen, you should look into this and maybe we should do a fantasy camp,'" he continued. "Between him and I we kicked it off 11 years ago. Unfortunately, he passed away but part of what continues this one is his memory, how excited he was about this camp and how good of a person he was."

Gretzky's camp has been held here in Las Vegas for the last four years. It previously took place in Phoenix during his days coaching the Coyotes after getting its start in Los Angeles more than a decade ago.

After signing, Subban will need to fit in on Canadiens

Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 2:22 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- P.K. Subban cleared a big hurdle by signing a two-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, but he still has some work ahead of him before his two-week absence from the team can be completely erased from memory.

Teammates have been bombarded with questions about Subban ever since the season began -- actually, pretty much since he arrived in Montreal -- and most were relieved Tuesday morning that they wouldn't need to talk about the talented defenseman's contract status any longer.


Subban return only a matter of time

By Pete Jensen - Staff Writer

With contract negotiations finally in his rearview mirror, P.K. Subban is gearing up for his long-awaited return to the Montreal Canadiens' lineup -- something that brings music to the ears of his fantasy owners.


"It's good that it's over and done with and it's settled," said Josh Gorges, Subban's defense partner last season and a likely candidate to be paired with him again this season. "We don't have to have these talks in the morning, what if this, what if that. It's over and we can focus on playing hockey."

The Canadiens have been playing pretty good hockey in Subban's absence, with a 3-1-0 record fueled by some of the stingiest defense in the League. The Canadiens enter Tuesday's game against the Winnipeg Jets (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS) tied for second in the NHL with 1.75 goals-allowed per game and sixth with 27.5 shots-allowed per game, so Subban's absence hasn't been particularly felt in that area.

Another department where Subban's influence often is felt is on the power play, but the Canadiens have excelled in that area as well, sitting seventh in the NHL with a 27.3-percent success rate.

Because of that success, Subban will need to try and make an effort not to rock the boat too much when he joins his teammates Wednesday in Ottawa for their morning skate prior to facing the Senators.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Tuesday he hadn't spoken to Subban, and that he won't until they meet in person in Ottawa on Wednesday. And the one thing Therrien said he will stress to his young defenseman above everything else is the team concept he has tried to instill since training camp began.

Red Wings trying to improve struggling power play

Tuesday, 01.29.2013 / 9:43 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

2012-2013 Standings

Central Division
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
01/29/13 9:50AM

The numbers by themselves don't tell the whole story, but the tale being spun thus far by the Detroit Red Wings' power play is an ugly one.

Heading into a home game against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings (2-2-1) find themselves sitting near the bottom of the League in power-play efficiency. Through five games, they’ve converted just two of their 26 man-advantage opportunities into goals, for a paltry 7.7-percent success rate.

Included in that number is a 0-for-6 output in a 2-1 overtime road loss Sunday to the Chicago Blackhawks, including 43 seconds of 5-on-3 time squandered.

"No question when your power play isn't zipping, it is draining," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "You're using your best players and you're wearing them out. We have to look at it. We have to fix it, for sure."

Linemates instrumental in Marleau's start

Monday, 01.28.2013 / 4:30 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

There's a pretty good chance that in the time it takes to read this sentence, Patrick Marleau will have scored another goal.

Through five games, Marleau has nine goals and three game-winners for the undefeated San Jose Sharks, who improved to 5-0-0 on Sunday night with a 4-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks. His dominance over the season's first nine days resulted in Marleau being named First Star of the week by the NHL.

Just how preposterous has Marleau's start been? Consider some of these facts:

Gretzky happy these days just being an NHL fan

Monday, 01.28.2013 / 2:48 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Wayne Gretzky is flattered and humbled anytime his name comes up in conversations for executive jobs around the National Hockey League, but said he hasn't had substantive conversations with any franchise about future employment, and he isn't planning to any time soon.

"I consider it an honor that people are even thinking about my name, thinking about me," Gretzky told Monday at the Bellagio, where he is hosting the 11th annual Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp. "I talk to a lot of people in hockey who are good friends of mine and we talk a lot about hockey, but the reality is I have never talked about any particulars with anybody.

"At this point in time I really don't have a desire to be in that pressure-cooker right now. It's just not in the cards for me right now."

Junior-age players seeing decisions made on NHL fate

Monday, 01.28.2013 / 2:46 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Is a one-week training camp and five regular-season games enough to judge a young player's ability to handle the rigors of the NHL?

For 10 GMs, that's the question they have been on the clock to answer, and time -- like everything else in the 2012-13 season -- is running out fast.

Four teams already have made their decisions. Sunday saw the Minnesota Wild send defenseman Mathew Dumba back to his junior team, and the Philadelphia Flyers do the same with center Scott Laughton.

On Monday, the Montreal Canadiens determined forward Alex Galchenyuk had done enough to stay with the team the whole season, and the Florida Panthers decided the same with Jonathan Huberdeau.

Getting to the bottom of strange early goalie numbers

Monday, 01.28.2013 / 2:28 PM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- As abbreviated training camps wound down and a condensed schedule started, longtime NHL goaltending coach Mitch Korn was asked what he expected from goalies out of the gate.

"This League is so fast and things happen so quick, that if your timing is not pinpoint you are going to be a fraction of a second late, and that's when pucks go through you."
-- Canucks goalie Cory Schneider

Korn, who was in Buffalo for seven seasons before spending the past 14 in Nashville, had been through it in 1995. He'd even spent time studying that season for clues, but ultimately admitted he still had no real clue how goaltenders would be affected this time.

Goaltending -- and the demands the game puts on it -- changed a lot in the 18 years since the last 48-game season in the NHL.

"There's no real precedent," Korn stressed. "It's the great unknown. This is [uncharted] territory and I think everyone will be affected a little different. I have a hunch it will be all over the board."

Ten days later, Korn's words have proven prophetic.

Goaltending has indeed been all over the board, with big names pulled from big starts and bloated goals-against averages where you'd least expect them. It's a small sample size, but the only thing more surprising than the number of goalies with a goals-against average above 3.00 and a save percentage below .900 was the names on those lists.

Matteau working hard, making Devils' decision tough

Monday, 01.28.2013 / 2:17 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Is the clock about to strike midnight for New Jersey Devils rookie forward Stefan Matteau?

While the 18-year-old wing hopes not, there's no question he's learned plenty in his professional audition.

The Devils will ultimately have to decide on Matteau following his fifth game of the season, which should come Tuesday at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins. If he plays in six or more games, it would count as a full season off his entry-level deal, moving him one year closer to free agency.

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Quote of the Day

It's an incredible feeling just to see it go in and see the Joe go pretty crazy.  Ever since the introduction there, I was kind of feeling the nerves, and to put that one home, I started to feel comfortable and I thought my play started to pick up.

— Nineteen-year-old Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin after scoring a goal in his NHL debut
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