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NHL Insider

Merrill, Devils happy with development

Wednesday, 07.18.2012 / 10:32 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- There's no doubt defenseman Jon Merrill has all the tools necessary to one day become a steady force along the blue line for the New Jersey Devils.

That's precisely why the organization selected the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder -- born in Oklahoma City and raised in Michigan -- in the second round (No. 38) of the 2010 Draft. His poise off the transition, ability to quarterback a power play and consistency in killing penalties are areas in which the Devils could certainly benefit.

The only thing seemingly hanging over Merrill's head at this stage in his hockey career is his maturity. As a freshman at the University of Michigan in 2010-11, Merrill led all Wolverine defensemen in points (25), assists (18) and blocked shots (70), while helping lead the team to the 2011 NCAA National Championship game.

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Seven candidates for a breakout season

Wednesday, 07.18.2012 / 9:45 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Erik Karlsson and James Neal proved they were ready for prime time with breakout seasons in 2011-12, though they did it in different ways.

The Norris Trophy winner and the NHL First-Team All-Star forward both took great leaps forward last season. Karlsson showed why the Ottawa Senators made him the 15th player chosen in the 2008 Entry Draft by improving from 45 to 78 points -- leading all defensemen in scoring by a margin not seen since the days of Paul Coffey. Neal, playing his first full season with Pittsburgh after being acquired from Dallas in February 2011, went from 21 goals to 40 and 39 points to 81, joining Karlsson as a First-Team All-Star.

Both breakthroughs came two years after one of the all-time breakout seasons -- Steven Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, jumped from 23 goals and 46 points as a rookie in 2008-09 to 51 goals and 95 points in 2009-10, proving the Bolts were right to spend the top pick on him.

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NHLer's, Blue Jays stick together in Toronto

Tuesday, 07.17.2012 / 11:08 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

On March 15, the Toronto Maple Leafs were mired in a season-turning five-game losing skid and fans and media alike were starting to criticize the team. But there was one voice of encouragement coming from another sport.

"Hate reading the negativity towards the Leafs," Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia tweeted to his 70,000-plus followers. “Guys play to win, try not kicking them when they are down, but pushing them to finish strong."

For Arencibia, it was the perfect opportunity to show his support for the Leafs and demonstrate solidarity among Toronto's athletes. The Leafs snapped their losing skid that night and Arencibia earned the respect of several NHL players, many of whom he already considered good friends.

And Blue Jays players don't mind staking their claim as the unofficial baseball team of the NHL.

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Could Devils have Brodeur's future replacement?

Tuesday, 07.17.2012 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils and their fans certainly breathed a sigh of relief earlier this month when veteran goalies Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg decided to re-sign with the organization for two more seasons each.

It wasn't so much that the pipeline of Devils goalie prospects was thin; rather, there's never a definitive timetable as to when a young goalie is prepared to make the professional jump. As it is, Brodeur's longevity has allowed New Jersey an opportunity to gradually replenish its goalie cupboard.

"We're here to win, and right now, the two goalies we feel we have will give us the best chance at winning for a lot of different reasons," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said of Brodeur and Hedberg. "We have a couple of young goalies we have high hopes for … they have the potential. It's a question of how quickly they can adjust and what they can do."

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McPhee, Capitals see Ribeiro as good fit

Saturday, 07.14.2012 / 2:43 PM / NHL Insider

Ben Raby - NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va.Mike Ribeiro had a feeling he would be traded to the Washington Capitals. He just figured it would have happened earlier in his career.

"When I got traded to Dallas [in Sept. 2006], I thought I was going to come here," Ribeiro said Saturday at the Washington Capitals annual Fan Fest. "Back then [the Capitals] didn't have [Nicklas] Backstrom so I thought I was coming here."

Instead the former Montreal Canadiens center was dealt to the Dallas Stars where he would spend the next six years, recording at least 18 goals and 59 points each season.

But following the 2011-12 campaign, which again saw Dallas miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ribeiro was prepared for a change of scenery.

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Passed over three times, Houser finds home in Florida

Saturday, 07.14.2012 / 11:23 AM / NHL Insider

Justin Goldman - NHL.com Correspondent

Michael Houser authored an exceptional story of perseverance when he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers on July 11.

At that moment, three years of mind-warping frustration caused by being passed over in three straight NHL Drafts was instantly wiped away thanks to four days of hard work -- and one golden opportunity.

Shortly after his name went uncalled in last month's draft, Florida invited the 2012 Ontario Hockey League Goaltender of the Year to their development camp.

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Hawks weigh options to center second line

Saturday, 07.14.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are still searching for a No. 2 center and likely will fill the key role internally for the third straight season.

The answer, thus far, hasn't been found in free agency and might not arrive via trade before the 2012-13 season starts. That means they could again go with a combination of undersized forwards Patrick Kane and Marcus Kruger if no other prospects prove they're ready during training camp.

Patrick Kane
Center - CHI
GOALS: 23 | ASST: 43 | PTS: 66
SOG: 253 | +/-: 7
The Blackhawks have quite a bit of depth at center in the system, including four prospects selected in the first round of the past three NHL drafts: Teuvo Teravainen (No. 18 in 2012), Mark McNeill (No. 18 in 2011), Phillip Danault (No. 26 in 2011) and Kevin Hayes (No. 24 in 2010).

"A few years back, we identified center as a position that we wanted to grow some guys into that [role], and I think we've seen in the last couple drafts we've got some guys who are going to be high-end players," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Friday, the last day of a prospects camp featuring all four of those centers. "Some of them aren't too far away, which is a good thing for us. We've seen a few of them even play the wing here just for some different looks, because they can't all play center."

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Pietrangelo's focus on getting Blues to the next level

Thursday, 07.12.2012 / 11:55 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A select number of players were on hand in Las Vegas last month for the NHL Awards ceremony. St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was not among them, but judging by his performance in the recently completed season, he could become a regular in Vegas -- possibly beginning next year.

Alex Pietrangelo
Defense - STL
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 39 | PTS: 51
SOG: 202 | +/-: 16

Pietrangelo finished fourth in the Norris Trophy voting behind winner Erik Karlsson; Shea Weber was the runner-up followed by Zdeno Chara. But instead of reveling in his personal accomplishments of last season that included career highs in goals (12), assists (39), points (51) and games played (81), Pietrangelo's thoughts were more on what might have been for a Blues team that finished with the second-best mark in franchise history.

"The worst thing was watching the Kings win the Cup knowing that could have been us," said Pietrangelo, who helped the Blues to a 49-22-11 record and 109 points.

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Malkin bringing trainer back to Moscow

Thursday, 07.12.2012 / 11:46 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Evgeni Malkin felt so strongly about the direction and training he received from Pittsburgh Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar last summer in Moscow that soon after the season ended he told reporters the two would be back at it this summer.

The problem is, Malkin forgot to ask Kadar first.

"He walked into my office and said, 'Kadarov,' which is what he calls me, 'you come to Russia to help me this summer?'" Kadar told NHL.com, laughing as he started the story. "I said, 'Do you want me to?' He goes, 'I already tell media you go.' I was like, 'Well, I guess I'm going, Geno.'"

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Teamwork stressed in Flyers' annual Trial on the Isle

Wednesday, 07.11.2012 / 5:24 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

STONE HARBOR, N.J. -- During his 16 NHL seasons, Ian Laperriere was known for hard work and smiling while he did it.

Sprinting along the beach with a former teammate on his back, however, was a new one even for him.

But Laperriere, the Flyers' director of player development, was right in the mix with the prospects taking part in the Flyers' development camp this week for the annual Trial on the Isle here in this New Jersey beach town.

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Quote of the Day

We have no doubt how he can play. You don't, with four teams that are left, you're not getting here without good goaltending. All great goalies left, and [Bishop] is a top-tier goaltender in this league and he's shown it.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper on goalie Ben Bishop, who shut out the Rangers in Game 5