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NHL Insider

Stars' Oduya, Sharp ready to face Blackhawks

Tuesday, 12.22.2015 / 9:30 AM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- When the Dallas Stars host the Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CH, FS-SW+), it will be the first time Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Patrick Sharp face the Blackhawks since changing teams in the summer.

Oduya, a member of Chicago's Stanley Cup championship teams in 2013 and 2015, signed with Dallas as a free agent last summer.

Sharp, who played for the Blackhawks' title teams in 2010, 2013 and 2015, came to the Stars in a July trade that sent defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt to Chicago for Sharp and defenseman Stephen Johns, who is with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.

The two veterans have already experienced facing a former team for the first time earlier in their respective careers, so it's natural they're downplaying that aspect of this Central Division game.

"We want to have a good finish here before the small little break [for Christmas], a lot of division games coming up," said Oduya, who has four goals and 12 points in 34 games with the Stars. "Obviously, they're a good team. I have a lot of friends on that team, but that makes me want to beat them even more."

Calm aura helps Ducks' Gibson in battle for No. 1 job

Sunday, 12.20.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Abbey Mastracco - NHL.com Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- John Gibson isn't much of a talker.

When he became the youngest goaltender to record a shutout in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, the capacity media crowd in the Anaheim Ducks dressing room left disappointed, with only a handful of quotes.

Does he talk to his coach, Bruce Boudreau, much?

"Nope," Boudreau said, laughing. "I get what you get."

What about his goalie coach, Dwayne Roloson?

Bure: Panarin, Kuznetsov have higher heights to reach

Thursday, 12.17.2015 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Retired Russian forward Pavel Bure believes rookie forward Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks and third-year forward Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals have the ability to dominate the NHL for years to come, Bure writes in his blog for NHL.com/ru, the League's Russian language website.

Bure, who scored 437 goals and 779 points during a 12-year NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, will make regular contributions to NHL.com/ru.

"I am happy for Panarin and Kuznetsov," Bure said in the article. "They both dreamed about making it in the NHL and they have done very well thus far, but at the same time both of them are still continuing to develop. It may sound crazy, but I know those two guys can play even better. They possess enough skills to become a dominating force in this League."

Panthers making strides in Ekblad's second season

Wednesday, 12.16.2015 / 7:02 PM / NHL Insider

Michael LoRe - NHL.com Staff Writer

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad walked the halls and corridors of MLB Network/NHL Network on Wednesday and was shown the ins and outs.

He saw the memorabilia, the history. He was introduced to MLB Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz. He took a handful of swings with a Wiffle ball bat at MLB Park, the indoor ballpark inside the building (he hit one home run over the left field wall). Ekblad spent 10 minutes answering questions from fans via Periscope and wrapped up his visit with some interviews.

Ekblad and the Panthers are still in the New York metropolitan area after a 5-1 win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday. Florida's road trip continues at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

"As a kid, obviously you want to play in the NHL and you never think you're going to get that opportunity until it happens, then you run with it," Ekblad said. "All of this is part of the game and part of being a professional hockey player. It's not taxing in any way. I'll be out of here by 4:30-5 (o'clock), getting room service and going to sleep pretty early with the game [Thursday].

"It all comes with the territory. There are definitely fun perks and a lot of really cool people you get to meet in your sport or the other main sports. It's really cool actually."

Analysis: Time is right for Canadiens' Markov move

Wednesday, 12.16.2015 / 6:45 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

BROSSARD, Quebec -- This is not a simple, run-of-the-mill demotion.

Coaches shuffle players back and forth between forward lines and defense pairings every day.

But when Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien decided to split his top defense pairing of P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov midway through the second period of a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, it was an important moment not only for this edition of the Canadiens, but potentially the entire organization for years to come.

Markov was dropped to the third pairing with Tom Gilbert and replaced on the top pair by Nathan Beaulieu, who for all intents and purposes is Markov's eventual replacement on the Canadiens depth chart on defense, one that has had Markov in the No. 1 or 2 spot practically his entire 15-season NHL career.

Those pairings remained in place at practice Wednesday and are expected be the same when the Canadiens host the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings at Bell Centre on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; CITYM, FS-W, RDS).

"I'm not looking for any excuses, I have to play better," Markov said Wednesday. "Many guys on our team have to play better. So we have to realize that and be better the next game."

Rask flashing old form as Bruins 'D' gains experience

Wednesday, 12.16.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask's early-season statistics were gaudy.

The 2014 Vezina Trophy winner started this season with one win in his first five starts and allowed 22 goals. His save percentage was .854. A lesser athlete might have panicked; a lesser organization might have started to look for alternatives.

But the Bruins stuck with Rask and he began to find his form Oct. 27 with 24 saves in a 6-0 victory against the Arizona Coyotes. Since then, Rask has been playing at a Vezina-worthy level with a .931 overall save percentage and a .951 save percentage at 5-on-5, according to war-on-ice.com.

"Tuukka has been like I think we're used to seeing him," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after one recent Rask victory. "But he's been solid. He's been good. I mean, he had a rough start to this season, but he's regained his game, and feeling confident, and certainly given us a chance to win every time he's in net."

Analysis: Penguins can't let Fleury injury change plan

Wednesday, 12.16.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The natural reaction to losing a No. 1 goalie to injury would be to adjust the system to a more conservative approach to give an added layer of protection to the backup being asked to carry a heavier workload.

The Pittsburgh Penguins can't fall into that trap.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will miss at least the Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) because of a concussion, the Penguins said Wednesday. His absence shouldn't stop the Penguins from building on the game they played Monday, when they offered a glimpse into the attacking, up-tempo, high-risk, high-reward team they are likely to be under new coach Mike Sullivan, who replaced Mike Johnston on Saturday.

Yes, the Penguins lost 4-1 to the Washington Capitals, a fact that can't go unnoticed, especially with Pittsburgh not holding a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings. But these were not the same Penguins we have seen this season.

Blackhawks see Scuderi as better fit than Daley

Tuesday, 12.15.2015 / 4:30 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Things didn't work out the way the Chicago Blackhawks hoped with defenseman Trevor Daley, so they did something about it.

The Blackhawks completed a trade Monday that sent Daley, 32, to the Pittsburgh Penguins, brought veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi to Chicago, and freed up a little more than $1 million under the NHL salary cap of $71.4 million.

Pittsburgh will retain 33 percent of Scuderi's reported $3 million cap charge, according to Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford. Daley has a reported charge of $3.3 million a season.

"That was pretty important for us," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Tuesday at United Center. "Looking at the big picture, it's hard to trade defensemen for defensemen and also gain some cap space. They're different style defensemen totally, but they're both veterans and I think the fact that we were able to give ourselves some breathing room on the cap, now and going forward, was an important part."

Rookies Ehlers, Eichel striving for consistency

Tuesday, 12.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The skill and ability that made Nikolaj Ehlers such an attractive prospect for the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft are gradually beginning to materialize in the NHL this season.

Like any first-year player coming over from the junior hockey ranks, however, Ehlers has struggled to maintain a consistent level of play but has made the most of his 14:30 in ice time.

Unlike some of the high-profile rookie standouts such as Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, Ehlers is not playing first-line minutes. He instead occupies the third line on most nights with center Alex Burmistrov and left wing Chris Thorburn.

"He's got all of the skills, speed, shot and hockey sense," Thorburn said. "It's just a matter of him putting it all together consistently, which he has done for the majority of the season. He's growing. As he gets older, the more experience he gets, the more dangerous he is going to be."

Rangers' Vigneault set to coach 1,000th NHL game

Friday, 12.11.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- As Alain Vigneault prepared to coach his 1,000th NHL game when his New York Rangers visit the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, it wasn't hard for the 54-year-old to find perspective on a career that came really close to ending 15 years earlier.

Vigneault was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 1999-2000, but was fired by the Montreal Canadiens 20 games into the following season. Despite three-plus seasons behind the bench in Montreal, he couldn't find another job in hockey. With his marriage breaking up and no jobs lined up, Vigneault thought he might have to "recycle myself into something else," and was "dabbling" with work in the media.

"'Challenging' would be an understatement," Vigneault said. "Even though I had sent my resume to tons of people and I had just been up for coach of the year with the [Canadiens], I couldn't find a job. I was six months out of work, I was going through a challenging separation, with two young daughters and a lot of bills. … There was a six-month period where anybody that's out of work, you ask yourself a lot of questions."

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