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NHL Insider

Tippett/Burke tandem gives Phoenix rock-solid 'D'

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 10:21 AM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Seeing his first action in the National Hockey League in almost two years, recent Phoenix Coyotes call-up Chad Johnson made 21 stops against the Nashville Predators to earn his first NHL shutout. For most goaltenders, that would have been a crowning achievement.

For the Coyotes, it's par for the course.

Following Johnson's return to Portland of the American Hockey League, starter Mike Smith, who had been nursing a lower-body injury, posted three shutouts in eight games. It's all a byproduct of the stifling defense coach Dave Tippett has instituted since coming to Phoenix prior to the start of the 2009-10 season. It's a system that has benefitted greatly from the work of goaltending coach Sean Burke.

"I think he's the best," Tippett said of Burke. "He's done a heck of a job for us."

Fasth found way to Ducks by working hard in Sweden

Friday, 02.15.2013 / 12:00 PM / NHL Insider

Risto Pakarinen - Correspondent

Viktor Fasth
Goalie - ANA
RECORD: 6-0-0
GAA: 1.74 | SVP: 0.933
When goalie Viktor Fasth signed a two-year contract with Stockholm AIK in 2010, it was barely news in Sweden. The biggest morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, had a three-line blurb about it, and Aftonbladet, the biggest daily, pulled the general manager's comments off AIK's website.

No wonder. AIK played in the second- and third-tier leagues for years and had just then, in 2010, earned promotion to the Swedish Elite League. Fasth, too, spent his career in the second- and third-tier leagues, and had just signed his first SEL contract at 27.

12 surprises from the first quarter of the season

Friday, 02.15.2013 / 1:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

Maybe the biggest surprise from the first few weeks of the 2012-13 NHL season is this: There aren't that many surprises.

Sure, some teams are off to better or worse starts than expected, but outside of the Anaheim Ducks challenging for the top spot in the Western Conference and essentially having the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals swap Eastern places, no team is more than a couple of victories away from either where it was at the end of last season or where most pundits expected it to be.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are in 13th place in the West, but the Los Angeles Kings also are a couple of games-played short of most of the field.

As for individual accomplishments, take a look at the League's scoring leaderboard and there are a lot of familiar faces at or near the top. Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek setting the pace is a slight surprise, but he's an elite player who has proven he can score in bunches.

Kekalainen's hiring a big deal to fellow NHL Finns

Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 2:45 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

New Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen doesn't see himself as any different from the 29 other GMs in the NHL. However, he does understand the significance of his hiring Wednesday, which made him the first European-born full-time GM of an NHL team.

"I am proud, but at the same time I'm going to try to approach it in a neutral way, just as I approach it with players," he said on a conference call Wednesday. "We're not favoring Finns or Europeans or anybody else based on the cover of their passport. I'm proud to be Finn, I'm proud to be the first European [GM]. But the work starts now, the challenge for me starts now. Then it's up to my ability and not my nationality to do the job and get the job done. I'm proud, but at the same time I try to put it in the background. I'm proud about it and I'm proud to be a European and proud to be a Finn."

Fellow Finns around the NHL also were proud.

Anaheim Ducks star forward Teemu Selanne, the leading Finnish-born scorer in NHL history, told the Los Angeles Times that Kekalainen's hiring was "awesome news. He is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the game. He is going to be great for Columbus. Very happy for him."

Sid back to setting marks; fifth fastest to 400 assists

Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 11:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Sidney Crosby entered the NHL record books again, and the Pittsburgh Penguins captain might just be warming up.

Crosby had a goal and two assists in the Penguins' 4-2 defeat of the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. The second assist, on James Neal's second-period goal, was the 400th of Crosby's career. Coming in his 448th game, it made Crosby the fifth-fastest player to reach that mark, behind Wayne Gretzky (290 games), Mario Lemieux (353), Peter Stastny (411) and Bobby Orr (437).

Johansen, Murray, '13 draft offer hope in Columbus

Thursday, 02.14.2013 / 10:15 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

To be clear, the challenge in front of new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and president John Davidson is an ample one. The new regime for the Columbus Blue Jackets will try to mold a franchise with zero Stanley Cup Playoff victories (and four postseason games) in its history into a consistent contender.

Though there is not a vast wealth of young talent to dream on like, say, in Edmonton or Florida, Kekalainen is not starting from scratch. Former general manager Scott Howson began the rebuilding process last season, and there are a few places to look on the Blue Jackets' organizational depth chart and see reasons for hope, even if more patience might be required.

European scouting director has the 411 on Kekalainen

Wednesday, 02.13.2013 / 11:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Don't let the Finnish name fool you.

Jarmo Kekalainen, who was named the first European general manager in NHL history on Wednesday by Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson, is more privy to the North American culture and game than some might think.

He played two years at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., in the late 1980s, spent three seasons in the NHL with the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators in the early 1990s, and even finished the Boston Marathon in under three hours.

Kekalainen's eye for talent lands Columbus post

Wednesday, 02.13.2013 / 10:20 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

A solid amount of the present-day success of the Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues can be attributed to one very important person: new Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.

Hired Wednesday by the Blue Jackets, Kekalainen's keen eye for talent at the NHL Draft is the biggest item on his resume.

Kekalainen spent eight years with the Senators (1995-2002) as the team's chief European scout and as director of player personnel. In these roles, he helped with drafts that landed the Senators some of the core players from the team that went to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final and who continue to play key roles today.

Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk becoming stars for St. Louis

Wednesday, 02.13.2013 / 12:00 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are considered the staples of the St. Louis Blues' defensive corps. But when the former first-round picks draw comparisons to arguably two of the best defensemen to play together with the Blues, and the entire NHL, it's still quite the feeling.

"It's very humbling to hear that," Shattenkirk said, referring to comparisons with former Blues greats Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger. "Those two guys are Hall of Fame defensemen. They changed the game. They changed the way that defensemen played the game and the way we play it now, the two of us.

"I don't think we're there yet, but that's what we want to hopefully aspire to be."

Pietrangelo, the fourth pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, and Shattenkirk, No. 14 in 2007, are not only leading the Blues in scoring, but the duo is tied for first and third, respectively, in scoring among defensemen (heading into play Tuesday, Shattenkirk is tied with Tobias Enstrom of the Winnipeg Jets).

Scott Howson timeline

Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 10:35 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

Scott Howson's vision for the Columbus Blue Jackets simply never came to fruition. Despite a star (Rick Nash) already in place and numerous high picks at the NHL Draft, Howson's clubs qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs just once - and got swept. takes a closer look at Howson's tenure, which ended Tuesday when he was relieved of his duties as executive vice president and general manager:

June 15, 2007 - Howson is named the second GM in Blue Jackets' history. He replaces Doug MacLean, who was fired in February of that year.

June 22-23, 2007 - Just one week after being hired, Howson finds himself at the draft table. He uses the seventh overall pick on right wing Jakub Voracek, who plays only three seasons in Columbus. His next six picks that year have played a combined 33 games in the National Hockey League - Maksim Mayorov and Allen York were the only two to reach the NHL level.

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