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NHL Insider

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.

Galchenyuk making his case to stay with Canadiens

Monday, 01.28.2013 / 12:01 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens will be faced with a decision on whether or not to send Alex Galchenyuk back to his junior team or to keep him in the NHL all season. And with every game he plays, the rookie makes a stronger and stronger case for himself.

Galchenyuk collected two assists in Sunday's night's 4-3 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils, displaying an increasing degree of poise with the puck and comfort on the ice as the No. 3 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft makes a bid to stay in Montreal this season.

Galchenyuk scored his first NHL goal in his second game on Tuesday, giving him three points in his last three games.

More power plays, better proficiency in first week

Sunday, 01.27.2013 / 10:56 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Were this a standard NHL season, most teams would still be feeling their way eight days into their 82-game schedule. But the four or five games already in the books for most clubs are a lot bigger percentage of this season's 48-game schedule -- magnifying the importance of each game and giving teams much less room for error.

The compacted schedule has meant fewer practices and off days, no out-of-conference games and a big jump in intensity -- a three- or four-game losing streak means a lot more when the schedule is more than 40 percent shorter than usual.

It's tempting to think that the alterations teams have had to make to cope with the shorter schedule have affected the way the game is played. But a comparison of the 64 games played on the first eight days of the new season with a similar number of games in 2011-12 shows fewer differences than some people might think.

Here's a comparison of the opening stages of this season with the start of the last one:

Sharks’ Marleau ties 96-year-old mark with fast start

Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 9:01 PM / NHL Insider

Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau can't explain his historically hot start to the NHL season, but he plans to ride this streak for as long as possible.

Marleau scored two goals for the fourth straight game Saturday, sparking the Sharks to a 4-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion. He joined Cy Denneny of the 1917-18 Ottawa Senators as the only players in NHL history with four multi-goal games to open a season.

"I wasn't aware of that," Marleau said after the game. "It's good that we're winning and things are going well right now. It's obviously only four games, but we'll just keep trying to build on it."

Quenneville sensed chance for fast start in camp

Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

With the only four-win team in the NHL heading into the second week of the 2012-13 season, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville isn't overlooking the importance of his club's quick start.

Chicago opened the season with three wins against teams that played in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the Phoenix Coyotes, who eliminated the Blackhawks in the opening round. Then Thursday, the Blackhawks came from two goals down to defeat the Dallas Stars, 3-2, in overtime.

At 4-0-0, the Blackhawks are off to their best start since the 1972-73 season.

Deadline to decide on 10 rookies approaching quickly

Saturday, 01.26.2013 / 9:00 AM / 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 general managers, that's the question they're on the clock to answer, and time -- like everything else in the 2012-13 season -- is running out fast.

Ten players on entry-level contracts made their NHL team's rosters for the start of the 2012-13 season, and with the abbreviated timeframe, teams have five games to judge their teenage prospects' NHL worthiness. Prior to playing a sixth game, teams can return players to their junior club and shift the start of their contract by one season. However, if the team keeps the prospect past the six-game mark, the player's contract goes into effect; while teams can return that player to his junior team at any time, it would waste the first year of the deal.

Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff recently was asked by the Buffalo News about one of his players, 18-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko, but the answer brings up questions that 10 other sets of NHL executives are asking themselves:

"We'll really evaluate everything," Ruff said. "What's the best for him? What's the best to push him to the next level? Can he help us win? Can he help us win in the role he's at? All those things will go into consideration. We want to do what's the best for us to win hockey games." takes a look at the 10 players, how they've fared so far and the likelihood of them staying in the NHL for the rest of the season.

Capitals look for positives after falling to 0-4

Friday, 01.25.2013 / 11:36 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- So what does Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates do now that his team has dropped its fourth straight game to open the 2012-13 season?

The effort and goaltending of Michal Neuvirth was certainly present Friday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, but the Capitals dropped a disheartening 3-2 decision in overtime when Ilya Kovalchuk connected for the home team with 20.5 seconds remaining.

Still, there were a lot of positives to take in defeat.

"Obviously, I read Troy Brouwer's comments [after Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens] about how we didn't work," Oates said. "But [Friday] was an example of what we can do when we do work and it was great to see. You want to get the win, but we waited for 57 minutes to get the tying goal [by Mike Green at 17:04 of the third period]. We hung in there and did our job and everybody worked for 60 minutes. We played a much better hockey game."

Benn excited to be back in familiar surroundings

Friday, 01.25.2013 / 4:22 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

FRISCO, Texas -- Normally a man of relatively few words, Dallas Stars center Jamie Benn summed it up perfectly when addressing the media after his first practice of the season, saying he hadn’t stopped smiling all day Friday, one day after he and the Stars agreed to a five-year, $26.25 million contract.

"It's great to be back in here and skating with the guys. I had a great first practice," Benn said. "It's really great that Tom [Gaglardi, owner], Joe [Nieuwendyk, general manager] and the Dallas Stars organization believes in me. I'm happy that I'm a Star for five more years and definitely looking forward to it."

The 23-year-old center skated in his first NHL All-Star Game last season and went on to a career-best 26 goals and 63 points in 71 games. He was a fixture on the team's top two lines last season, a role he'll return to as soon as Monday when the Stars begin a two-game road trip at the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Flyers sign vet Knuble, lose Meszaros for month

Friday, 01.25.2013 / 3:30 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

The Philadelphia Flyers couldn't even celebrate their first victory of the season without more bad news to digest.

Hours after revealing top-line forward Scott Hartnell would miss four-to-eight weeks with a broken first metatarsal in his left foot, the team lost defenseman Andrej Meszaros for at least a month with a shoulder injury.

Meszaros appeared to sustain an injury to his left shoulder on the final shift of the second period Thursday when he collided with the New York Rangers' Ryan Callahan.

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