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NHL Insider

Nicklas Lidstrom prepares for next phase of his life

Thursday, 09.27.2012 / 12:48 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Nicklas Lidstrom's life for most of June, all of July and at least half of August was, for all intents and purposes, normal. He spent the summer in Sweden and returned to Detroit in late August -- typically the appropriate time to meet up with his Red Wings teammates for some informal practices to prepare for training camp.

However, Lidstrom's return to Hockeytown this year was short and somewhat bittersweet.

The now former Red Wings defenseman, who announced his retirement in a gala press conference at Joe Louis Arena on May 31, sold his sprawling suburban home in July and simply returned to the area late this summer to hand over the keys and take care of some minor final details.

Ratelle, Lemaire among most underrated players

Wednesday, 09.26.2012 / 1:09 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

No successful NHL team gets far without great talent. But not all of that talent gets a lot of attention. There are great players -- even Hall of Fame members -- who don't receive enough attention. Only afterwards do we realize just how good they were, and just how much they meant to their teams' success.

Here are seven of the most underrated players in NHL history:

Jean Ratelle

It's hard to imagine a Hall of Fame member who starred in the NHL for a long time with less fanfare than Ratelle, a quiet center who was more than content to let his play speak for him.

Ratelle and boyhood friend Rod Gilbert came up together with the Rangers, played together as linemates for years -- and both made the Hall of Fame. But while Gilbert was a flashy wing with a big shot, Ratelle was more like Jean Beliveau -- a slick center who defined elegance on the ice and class and dignity off it.

Name game: Rating the top combos in NHL history

Tuesday, 09.25.2012 / 2:14 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

The thousands of players who've suited up for NHL games run the gamut of first names -- everything from Aaron (Broten, among others) to Zarley (Zalapski -- the only player whose first and last names both begin with the letter "Z"). But if you want your son to have a career in the NHL, it might be best to name him Mike or Bob.

Michael and Robert (and their various derivatives) are by far the most plentiful on the NHL's all-time player list. There have been more than 200 NHL players named Mike/Michael/Michel (a recent count puts the number at 208), the most of any first name. Robert/Bob/Bobby is next at 194, with Dave/David/Davey a distant third at 135.

But which name would give you the best chance at winning the Stanley Cup? Compiling from a list of strictly non-active players, here's a look at some potential winning combinations.

For Yaroslavl, emotional week ends with home win

Saturday, 09.22.2012 / 5:50 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

For years, a season-opening visit to the local church has been a cherished tradition for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. It held even greater meaning this season after the plane crash that took the lives of many of the team's players, coaches and support staff on Sept. 7, 2011.

The visit was just part of a week's worth of tributes for the team and its coach, who following an emotional return to Yaroslavl now has a winning KHL squad fresh off its first home victory.

"It's a real good group. They're willing to do things to win games. Probably one of the more enjoyable group of guys I've coached, to be honest with you," coach Tom Rowe told the day after his first Lokomotiv home win. "We had a really good road trip at the beginning of the season. We went to the Siberian region, which isn't an easy place to go, from what they told me."

Rowe heard right.

His club started its regular season with a 5-2 win in Novosibirsk, an Eastern Russian city located about 600 miles from the Mongolian border and 2,115 miles from Moscow. That was followed by a 2-1 victory in Khabarovsk, less than 20 miles from the Chinese border. Through the extreme road trip, Rowe had his team keep its watches on Moscow time, a tough task considering the eight-hour time difference.

Kupaks blazing trail for women as GM in CHL

Thursday, 09.20.2012 / 8:11 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

It's a conversation Nicole Kupaks finds herself having every so often. It starts with people asking what she does for a living. Her response sometimes leads to even more questions. After all, people aren't used to meeting the only female president/general manager in hockey. That's something she's trying to change.

"It's not easy for a female, especially in this role, even if it's in the minors. There's not many of us out here. Hopefully I've proven a lot in my work ethic and the quality of product that I put out there," said Kupaks, who was named GM of the CHL's Laredo Bucks in 2011 before the team was moved to St. Charles, Mo., last summer and she inherited the additional title of team president. "[People ask,] 'Do you coach your son's team?' No, I run the minor pro team that we just brought into town.

Rivers enjoys homecoming as coach of CHL Chill

Thursday, 09.20.2012 / 8:07 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

After 16 years in professional hockey, including 184 games as a member of the St. Louis Blues, Jamie Rivers wasn't certain where he would be when he eventually decided to hang up his skates. That next phase in his hockey career started this week when he was named coach of the St. Charles Chill of the Central Hockey League. And in an interesting twist of fate, it was a freak injury that allowed the longtime NHL defenseman to come home.

Formerly the Laredo Bucks, the CHL team's franchise rights were transferred this summer to a new ownership group, which moved them to St. Charles, just a few miles northwest of St. Louis. When the Chill started looking for a coach, Rivers saw a chance to start his new career in his own back yard.

"I was drafted in 1993 [by St. Louis]. Right away when I got here I heard that a lot of guys love to stay here and grow roots in the city," Rivers told "I met my wife here in St. Louis. We have four children now and I think I've been living here since 1995."

Hockey immortals not only ones to win NHL awards

Wednesday, 09.19.2012 / 1:20 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

NHL postseason awards are a sign that no matter what else a player may have done during his career, there was a season in which his performance was good enough to be recognized.

But not every NHL award-winner is a hockey immortal. For every Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky, who could stock a trophy shop with all the hardware they've won, there are players who were in the right place at the right time to get their names on some of hockey's most famous hardware.

Here's a look at some of the one-time winners of the NHL's major trophies:

For Daneyko, week in Russia brings back memories

Tuesday, 09.18.2012 / 7:19 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

In a 20-year NHL career, Ken Daneyko won three Stanley Cups to go along with silver and bronze medals earned representing Canada at the World Championship. With that kind of resume, he figured he had experienced everything hockey could offer prior to his 2003 retirement.

That changed in early September, when the former New Jersey Devils defenseman made a special hockey pilgrimage to Russia.

"Everybody asked me when I retired if it was difficult. For me, it really wasn't. I was very content," said Daneyko, who traveled to participate in two exhibition games featuring former NHL players. "When I got in the locker room with these guys, all of a sudden you're in a room sitting next to (Wayne) Gretzky and (Mark) Messier. Brett Hull was there. To see the competitiveness from them, it was the first time I felt like an NHLer again. I thought, maybe this is what I miss. Even though it was some old [guys], the atmosphere was unbelievable."

Giving great playmakers in NHL history their due

Tuesday, 09.18.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Let's face it -- the guy who puts the puck in the net is the one who gets the lion's share of the attention. His teammate who helped make the play happen is often overlooked.

But players who have the combination of skill, hands and vision, who see the play before it happens and can get the puck to teammates in prime scoring position, are at least as dangerous as the guys with the big goal-scoring numbers. Their ability to draw opponents to them and find the open man makes everyone better. They're the guys that make the highlight-reel goals happen -- and they're invaluable.

Here's a look at some of the great playmakers in NHL history:

10. Henrik Sedin

The passing half of the Sedin twins (Daniel is more of a shooter) has never scored more than 29 goals in a season, but has been one of the NHL's best setup men for the past six seasons. Henrik has at least 60 assists in each season since 2006-07, and his 83 in 2009-10 helped him lead the NHL in scoring and win the Hart Trophy as MVP.

Some of the NHL's best debuts by 18-year-olds

Monday, 09.17.2012 / 2:29 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

The Edmonton Oilers are hoping that Nail Yakupov's success in junior hockey will lead to a fast start to his NHL career.

The Oilers took Yakupov with the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft in June, and they hope he'll be ready to step right into a regular role at age 18 -- the same way Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall did for Edmonton in the past two seasons after being the first players selected in their draft years. Both played well and appear to be on their way to fine careers.

The two No. 1 picks before that, Steven Stamkos (2008) and John Tavares (2009), also entered the NHL right away, and both look like they'll go on to long and successful careers. But both had good, not great, seasons as 18-year-olds: Stamkos had 21 goals in his first season, but his 156 goals in the past three seasons are the most in the NHL. Tavares scored 24 goals and had 54 points as an 18-year-old, but is coming off an 81-point season with the New York Islanders in 2011-12 and shows signs that he's capable of a lot more.

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