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NHL Insider

LaFontaine returns to Islanders roots at Coliseum

Tuesday, 03.24.2015 / 2:26 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Pat LaFontaine arrived at Nassau Coliseum in 1984 and was asked to help the New York Islanders win the Stanley Cup for a fifth consecutive year.

They nearly pulled it off, reaching the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Edmonton Oilers in five games. LaFontaine, who was 19 at the time and New York's first-round pick (No. 3) a year prior, had three goals and six assists in 19 playoff games.

"We went on an unbelievable run," LaFontaine said. "If not for a few injuries and a few guys named [Mark] Messier and [Wayne] Gretzky, we might have won."

LaFontaine was back at the Coliseum on Tuesday, when he will be honored prior to the Islanders game against the Minnesota Wild. Nearly a decade passed between visits to what has been the Islanders' only home, but owner Charles Wang and general Garth Snow each reached out to LaFontaine with hopes of luring him back for what promises to be a special night.

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Hammond's historic run has Senators in playoff spot

Tuesday, 03.24.2015 / 11:14 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Andrew Hammond
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 14-0-1
GAA: 1.67 | SVP: .946
The transaction line came and went Jan. 29, like so many others do during the course of an 82-game NHL season.

The Ottawa Senators summoned a goaltender from the Binghamton Senators, their American Hockey League team to hold down the backup spot behind Robin Lehner while starter Craig Anderson recovered from a hand injury.

Lehner started nine straight games; then came Feb. 16 at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Late in the second period Lehner and forward Clarke MacArthur collided and Lehner sustained a concussion. That pressed into action the unknown minor-league goaltender; an undrafted 27-year-old with an .898 save percentage and 3.51 goals-against average in 25 AHL games. A goaltender who hadn't seen a puck in a competitive environment since allowing four goals on 37 shots in a 5-2 loss to the St. John's Ice Caps on Jan. 23.

The Senators were nine points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and were trending toward missing the postseason for a second straight season.

So expectations were pretty low when Andrew Hammond entered the net at Canadian Tire Centre.

Five weeks later, Hammond has Hamburglered his way into one of the most remarkable seasons in NHL history.

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Confident Kings face season-defining road trip

Tuesday, 03.24.2015 / 9:33 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- This is the regular season and that was the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Los Angeles Kings have to re-create or at least re-enact how they played with zero room for error in winning the Stanley Cup last season if they're going to have a chance to defend it this season.

They expect they will be able to do it. Confidence remains high even though consistency has been lacking.

"We know we can do it," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "We're confident that we will do it. There's no hope involved in that."

The Kings head into their game Tuesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) trailing the contenders in the Western Conference playoff race with 10 games remaining. They are two points behind the Calgary Flames for third in the Pacific Division and four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

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Schneider thriving with heavy workload for Devils

Monday, 03.23.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider would gladly trade his eye-catching statistics if it meant having an opportunity to participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 26-26-7
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: .929
Schneider's numbers in his first season as a No. 1 goalie appear good enough to have the Devils heading to the postseason. But even a 2.16 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage aren't good enough to overcome New Jersey's 2.21 goals-for average.

There are five goalies with a save percentage of .927 or higher at this point in the season, and four are playing for teams in the postseason hunt: Carey Price (.938) of the Montreal Canadiens, Cam Talbot (.929) of the New York Rangers, Devan Dubnyk (.927) of the Minnesota Wild and Pekka Rinne (.927) of the Nashville Predators.

Schneider, meanwhile, is on the outside looking in. He'll likely start his 62nd game Monday when the Devils play the Los Angeles Kings at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US).

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Monahan leading Flames' push to end playoff drought

Sunday, 03.22.2015 / 11:18 PM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

CALGARY -- One by one, a young Sean Monahan would stand in the backyard of his Brampton, Ontario home and pick off fence board after fence board.
 
One by one, his father, John, would replace the damage to his fence.
 
"Probably eight or nine a week," Monahan said, flashing a sly, almost bashful smile. "Between throwing the lacrosse ball around and shooting pucks, all the time, the fence boards would be cracked in half or knocked out.
 
“I don't think anything drove me to do it. I just wanted to do it. I enjoyed shooting pucks. I think it was just the passion for the game. I always wanted to hold a hockey stick or lacrosse stick and it was something I enjoyed doing.
 
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Sharks running out of time to make playoffs

Sunday, 03.22.2015 / 12:45 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- For the first time since 2002-03, the math does not look very good for the San Jose Sharks.

That might be why coach Todd McLellan is happy to ignore the math.

The Sharks fell six points behind the Calgary Flames for third in the Pacific Division and eight points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference on Saturday with 10 games left to play.

The Sharks 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens came minutes after the Jets finished beating the Washington Capitals 3-0 at home and hours after the Flames earned a point in a 3-2 overtime loss at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In that short span of time, the Sharks streak of 10 straight seasons in the playoffs came that much closer to ending.

"I'm not very good at math so I'm not doing it," McLellan said. "We've got to play a game in Ottawa [on Monday], so somebody else who knows how to add and subtract can do that for you. I'm not."

When the Sharks began this seven-game road trip in Winnipeg on March 17, they were five points out of a playoff spot with 13 games left.

Five days and three games later, the deficit increased by one point, but the number of games left to overcome it dropped significantly.

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Stastny fitting in with hometown St. Louis Blues

Sunday, 03.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Paul Stastny entered the summer of 2014 with a choice, one that would affect his immediate NHL future.

When that choice involved a chance to go home for the 29-year-old Quebec City native who lived most of his childhood in St. Louis because his Hall of Fame father (Peter Stastny) played his final two NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Stastny was excited about the next chapter in his life.

But after signing a four-year, $28 million contract with St. Louis on July 1, there were naturally expectations to live up to, most of which would come from those judging from the outside. Those expectations come with the territory when you're arguably the biggest free-agent center on the market.

Through 64 games in his first season with the Blues, Stastny had 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists), or 0.66 points per game, which is below his career average of 0.85 entering this season. But to those on the inside, particularly Stastny's teammates, coaches, and management, his performance has been on the rise just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Stastny enters the Blues' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings [Noon ET; NBC, SN360] sixth on the team in scoring. In 2013-14, his final season with the Colorado Avalanche, he had 25 goals, the most since scoring 28 in his rookie season, and 60 points in 71 games.

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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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Quote of the Day

I think everyone left it out there. Every game this season, regular season and playoffs, we played as hard as we could. We're not out of the playoffs right now because of lack of effort, and that's all that we can ask of each other.

— Predators defenseman Seth Jones after Nashville was eliminated by Chicago in Game 6 on Saturday