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NHL Insider

Barrie improving his defensive game for Avalanche

Friday, 03.20.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- Like most young defensemen, Tyson Barrie struggles at times in his end. But he's improved so much since the beginning of the season that Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy no longer considers him to be a defensive liability.

"It can be tough," Barrie said. "Earlier, I was having some problems with it. It's something you work on, watching video and working with the coaches. The offensive instincts, you don't want to mess with those too much. You learn, try not to be reckless. It's something I'll need to focus on my whole career."

Barrie, 23, has the offensive part down. A fluid skater and puck-handler, he has five goals and 10 assists in his past 14 games and is among the NHL's top-scoring defensemen with 11 goals and 35 assists (46 points) in 68 games.

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Lightning D-man Stralman effective in many roles

Friday, 03.20.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Long - NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- When defenseman Anton Stralman signed a five-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on the opening day of NHL free agency last July, he did so with the hopes of becoming a top-pair defenseman.

Nine months later, Stralman has exceeded expectations in many ways. He has played in all 71 games and held the Lightning blue line together when it was dealing with injuries to Victor Hedman, Matthew Carle and recently acquired Braydon Coburn.

It's the opportunity that Stralman, a 28-year-old native of Tibro, Sweden, has embraced. He has remained a steady presence on defense and become a valuable part of the power play. He has matched a career high with 34 points (six goals) and is plus-20 averaging about 22 minutes a game.

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Pirri goes from scratch to scorer for Panthers

Thursday, 03.19.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- This is how things have been going lately for Florida Panthers forward Brandon Pirri.

Forward Brad Boyes had just skated near the outside of the right circle when he dropped a pass near the top of the circle. Almost as quickly as Pirri received the pass, he released a wrist shot that whizzed between a couple of Montreal Canadiens players and rang in off the far post.

Just like that, Pirri had his 13th goal in 18 games, an Ovechkin-like pace that projects to 59 goals over a full NHL regular season.

"They're looking for a scorer in Florida," play-by-play voice Steve Goldstein said during the Panthers'  3-2 loss Tuesday. "He may be right here in this building. That guy."

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Bruins to contend with Hammond, surging Senators

Thursday, 03.19.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has heard of Ottawa Senators rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond, and the Bruins' leading scorer with 22 goals is impressed.

"I heard he likes to eat McDonald's. That's about it," Marchand said Wednesday after practice at Ristuccia Arena. "He's in a pretty good spot, McDonald's for life, can't argue with that one."

Hammond, nicknamed "The Hamburglar," has been given free food for life at six McDonald's locations in the Ottawa Valley. But he didn't get that reward because he's expressed a love for the food. Recently, the 27-year-old with the fast-food nickname has been as dominant as any goaltender in the NHL and he's helped the Senators stay in the race for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

In his first 12 NHL starts, Hammond is 11-0-1 with a 1.35 goals-against average and .956 save percentage. He is the second goaltender in NHL history to yield two or fewer goals in each of his first 12 starts, which ties the record of Boston's Frank Brimsek set in 1938-39.

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Kopitar, Gaborik searching for chemistry with Kings

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik were briefly neighbors in the popular town of Manhattan Beach, Calif., when Kopitar was remodeling a home earlier this season. It's a natural fit: The two are cut from the same cloth, elite European players who enjoy anonymity in Southern California.

But the buddy-movie notion of the two taking Kopitar's dog, Gustl, for a walk on the strand is slightly farfetched.

"We haven't gotten that far yet," Kopitar said.

That also might apply to their ongoing chemistry project this season for the Los Angeles Kings. After Gaborik and Kopitar clicked in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two will continue searching for that mesh when the Kings look to continue their climb up the Western Conference standings Wednesday at the Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

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Richards chasing Cup with Blackhawks after Rangers

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Brad Richards saw this kind of season coming for the New York Rangers back in 2011, when he chose to sign with them instead of multiple suitors as an unrestricted free agent.

But less than a year after helping New York advance to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, Richards will play at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday as the third-line center for the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN1).

The Rangers, who lead the NHL with 95 points, bought out the remaining six years of Richards' nine-year, $60 million contract last summer.

Richards signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks to continue his Stanley Cup quest, and said he harbors no hard feelings toward the Rangers.

"The only negative thing [in New York] was we were three wins away from winning a championship in an Original Six city, a great city, and that's why I was lucky enough to pick and choose this summer and come to an Original Six city here, a great historic franchise," said Richards, whose Rangers lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. "That's the only thing that's left out. It would have been nice to close the deal and do that, but a lot of players say that every year."

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Five things to watch when Blackhawks face Rangers

Wednesday, 03.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

It may very well be a preview of the Stanley Cup Final when the New York Rangers host the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden. This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN1) features two of the top teams in the NHL, each of which seems primed to play deep into the spring.

With the Rangers atop the League standings and the Blackhawks battling for position in the Central Division, there's plenty at stake for each team.

Here are five things to watch between the Rangers and Blackhawks:

1. Who replaces St. Louis?

The Rangers recently lost defenseman Kevin Klein for 3-4 weeks because of an upper-body injury, and now they'll be without forward Martin St. Louis, who sustained a lower-body injury late in a 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday.

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Canucks honoring Quinn on St. Patrick's Day

Tuesday, 03.17.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- There weren't a lot of dry eyes at Rogers Arena after the Vancouver Canucks mourned the death of Pat Quinn on Nov. 25 with a moment of silence and a stirring rendition of "Danny Boy."

Now, almost four months after Quinn died at age 71 following a lengthy illness, the Canucks hope to replace the tears with smiles as they celebrate the life and legacy of Quinn, their beloved former coach, general manager and president on Tuesday.

It's hard to imagine a more fitting day to remember and honor Quinn.

Not only are the Canucks playing the Philadelphia Flyers, who Quinn started his coaching career with, but it is also St. Patrick's Day, the perfect time celebrate a man known affectionately as "The Big Irishman."

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Rutherford confident Penguins are ready for playoffs

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 5:45 PM / NHL Insider

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Pittsburgh Penguins may have lost a pair of home games in the span of 24 hours last weekend, but general manager Jim Rutherford believes they are ready for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A shutout loss to the Boston Bruins in a Saturday matinee, and a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in a nationally televised afternoon game on Sunday, sounded some alarm bells around a team which has struggled for consistency all season.

Rutherford, however, was not concerned when he arrived for the start of the spring installment of the NHL's general managers meetings. The Penguins are 39-20-10 and in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the New York Islanders with two games in hand. The Washington Capitals, which holds the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, is four points behind the Penguins.

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Trophy, playoff races among questions remaining

Monday, 03.16.2015 / 3:18 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

There are fewer than 200 games remaining in the 2014-15 NHL regular season and the only race remotely close to being decided is the one for first place in the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks have a 13-point lead.

The rest of the playoff chases and scoring races are still up for grabs. Home-ice advantage is on the line. Players are trying secure their candidacy for postseason awards. Ten teams are within eight points of the lead for the Presidents' Trophy.

So much still has to be decided and yet the days are quickly ticking off the calendar. So many questions still have to be answered, but why wait until April 11, the final day of the regular season, when all 30 teams are in action? Why can't we just answer the hot questions now?

Here are 15 important questions heading into the homestretch of the season, with some educated guesswork for the answers:

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Quote of the Day

He scores 50 goals, they go in, they go in, and they go in. And I think, 'Why can't I do that?'

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on teammate Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 50th goal of the season Tuesday in a 4-2 win vs. the Hurricanes