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NHL Insider

Capitals work on getting Hunter's system down

Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:35 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- This has already been quite a week for the Washington Capitals, and it isn't going to get any easier Thursday night.

To recap, the Capitals welcomed a new head coach Monday, played their first game with him Tuesday and welcomed a new assistant coach Wednesday. Now all that's left for Thursday is welcoming the rival Pittsburgh Penguins to Verizon Center to face Sidney Crosby for the first time since the Winter Classic last Jan. 1 when he sustained the first of two hard hits in consecutive games that led to his concussion.

Yzerman still a Detroit idol to current Wings

Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:09 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- Still hanging in his room back at his parents' home in Muskegon, Mich., is one of Justin Abdelkader's favorite posters from his childhood.

It's framed and it's been there since he was 10 years old in 1997 -- the year the Detroit Red Wings won their first of four Stanley Cups in the modern era, led by "The Captain" Steve Yzerman.

Nearly 15 years later, Abdelkader plays for the Red Wings and will be in uniform on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena when Yzerman makes his first return to Detroit since becoming the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in May 2010. It's sure to be a special game for Yzerman, Abdelkader and pretty much anybody who was a Red Wings fan for the last 20 years.

"I definitely followed him and the career he had," said Abdelkader, who will center Detroit's fourth line against the Lightning. "He was always a fun player to watch and always led his team on the ice. I remember seeing him in the playoffs when he was playing injured and playing on one leg. His knee was really bothering him and you could see the pain he was in, but he just kept battling through it and kind of helped his team muscle through the playoffs. I was a huge fan, for sure."

Like a lot of people his age, Abdelkader doesn't even remember a time in his life when the Red Wings weren't very good. Yzerman is a big reason for that, after coming to Detroit as the Wings' top pick in the 1983 NHL Draft (No. 4) and seizing the captain's "C" on his sweater in 1986.

Miller practices, says he's staying in Buffalo

Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 3:05 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

"I think it's funny when you hear things like 'wouldn't mind.' That implies somebody's asked me and I've never made a comment about my status with the team. My comment about my status with the team now is I'm proud to be a Sabre, I'm excited for what we can accomplish moving forward and I want to be a part of it." -- Ryan Miller

Ryan Miller told reporters he felt good after his first full workout with his Buffalo Sabres teammates in about three weeks and is excited about getting back -- with the Sabres.

Miller hasn't played since Nov. 12, when he suffered a concussion and whiplash when he was hit by Boston's Milan Lucic.

However, Miller's name is in the news thanks to his being mentioned in a column by Edmonton Journal and Hockey Hall of Fame writer Jim Matheson, who wrote that Miller "wouldn't mind" a trade out of Buffalo. That speculation was ramped up when three Ducks scouts -- among them Anaheim general manager Bob Murray -- were at the First Niagara Center on Tuesday to watch the Sabres-Islanders game.

Boudreau holds no grudges, still rooting for Caps

Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 1:18 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Just as he did from behind the Washington Capitals' bench for the last four years, Bruce Boudreau stood on his feet Tuesday night and watched his old team with an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. Only this time, Boudreau was standing in his living room, and he couldn't quite figure out why he was such a ball of nerves.

Boudreau was fired by the Capitals on Monday, so he had nothing riding on the outcome of Dale Hunter's debut game. He could have been doing anything else and nobody would have blamed him.

"I stood up the whole game," Boudreau told during a phone interview Wednesday morning. "I never sat down once. I was more nervous (Tuesday) night than I was any other night. I told my wife, 'I don't know why I'm nervous, but I'm really nervous.' I wanted to see them succeed."

Boudreau will not stop rooting for the Capitals. He's tied too closely to those players and that organization to wish them anything but success.

He does not hold a grudge against anyone, be it underperforming star players Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, GM George McPhee, who took his dream job away, President Dick Patrick or owner Ted Leonis.

Green working way back; hasn't spoken to Boudreau

Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 12:18 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Mike Green is back to skating regularly before practice, but his return to the Washington Capitals from a groin injury remains a mystery.

Green was on the ice before the Capitals' practice Wednesday morning, just as he was Monday morning before coach Dale Hunter's first workout with the club.

Green hasn't played since getting hit in the corner during a game Nov. 11 at New Jersey.

Iginla wants to win with Flames

Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 9:40 AM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

Jarome Iginla is aware of the rumors. He's hoping a turnaround by his Calgary Flames will be enough to silence them.

With the Flames off to a slow start through the first quarter of the season, the face of the franchise is aware of the whispers circling around the possibility that he will soon find himself playing somewhere else.

Through 23 games, the Flames have a 10-12-1 record for 21 points -- tied for 12th in the Western Conference and 25th in the NHL. Calgary's slow start has fueled gossip that Iginla, struggling himself with just seven goals and 12 points in 23 games, is being shopped as the team around him has taken on a more youthful demeanor.

Three years in, Burke has Leafs beginning to deliver

Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 2:59 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

When Brian Burke was hired by to be the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Richard Peddie, the CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, let it be known exactly what he expected from his new employee.

"He will be charged with the task of leading the Leafs to their 14th Stanley Cup," Peddie said.

No pressure there, eh?

That was Nov. 29, 2008. As Burke celebrates the third anniversary of his being hired, the Leafs currently look closer to that goal than ever before.

Hunter could have coaching style similar to Hitchcock

Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 2:54 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

"He's a very demanding coach, but if you respond in the right way you're going to win a lot of hockey games. A lot of the guys seem to be responding the right way right now. They've got a lot of leaders, guys like [Jason Arnott] and [Jamie] Langenbrunner that know about [Hitchcock] and know about his style. I think that will help with the young guys. He's a winning guy and proven to win so that's the biggest thing." -- Jason Chimera on Ken Hitchcock

ARLINGTON, Va. -- There will be a coach known for demanding a great deal from NHL players behind the bench Tuesday night at Verizon Center, and he has quickly turned around a wayward club after recently joining the franchise.

There will also be a coach making his NHL debut, and he's expected to guide his ship with a similar style -- as well as have a similar impact on his team's position in the standings.

Dale Hunter's first game as Washington Capitals coach will be against Ken Hitchcock and the surging St. Louis Blues. Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne as the Blues' coach, and St. Louis is 7-1-2 since his arrival.

"I've watched a few of their games and I know the way he wants them to play," said Capitals forward Jason Chimera, who played for Hitchcock in Columbus. "He's a very demanding coach, but if you respond in the right way you're going to win a lot of hockey games. A lot of the guys seem to be responding the right way right now. They've got a lot of leaders, guys like [Jason Arnott] and [Jamie] Langenbrunner that know about [Hitchcock] and know about his style. I think that will help with the young guys. He's a winning guy and proven to win so that's the biggest thing."

Button: A good GM knows right time for bold change

Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 9:32 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NHL Network analyst Craig Button can relate to what Washington's George McPhee and Carolina's Jim Rutherford were going through during the past few weeks while watching their foundering teams fall further and further from the pack.
Button fired two coaches, Don Hay and Craig Gilbert, during his three-season tenure as the general manager in Calgary from 2000-03. Neither decision came easy. Both were made after he and his management associates took long and in-depth looks at what wasn't working and why.
"It just comes down to a case of, 'OK, we've reached the point of no return,' " Button told Monday night. "That is exactly what happens."
McPhee and Rutherford each reached that point of no return after watching their teams lose another game Saturday. After taking Sunday to be sure, they both made decisions that rocked the hockey world Monday, with McPhee bringing in ex-Capitals captain Dale Hunter to replace Bruce Boudreau and Rutherford firing Paul Maurice in favor of Kirk Muller.

Carlson and Wideman excited about Caps' future

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 8:31 PM / NHL Insider

Ben Raby - Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va -- One thing made clear by Dale Hunter on his first day as head coach of the Washington Capitals is that players will be held accountable regardless of name.

"I'm a players     coach,” Hunter said Monday, "but also the players will know when I'm mad at them. I'm stern on them because that's the way you have to be to win games. Everybody makes mistakes out there, but if they keep making the same mistakes there will be repercussions.”

"I think I was one of the better players on my team,” Carlson said, "and I certainly didn't get a free pass, so I don't see much changing there.”

Hunter spent parts of 11 years coaching the OHL's Knights, winning three Matt Leyden Trophies as Coach of the Year and the 2005 Memorial Cup as national champions.
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