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NHL Insider

Blues' Stastny surging as he sets to face Avalanche

Friday, 12.12.2014 / 4:18 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The numbers may not have reflected it earlier in the season, but for St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny, popping up on the score sheet more often recently is the reason why the Blues invested so heavily in him.

And the offensive numbers have accumulated just in time for Stastny to make his first appearance against the team he spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with, the Colorado Avalanche.

The Blues play the Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Saturday. Stastny missed the Blues' first game against the Avalanche on Nov. 1 after sustaining a shoulder injury, so this will be his first game against the only teammates he knew for eight years.

"You just want to get that first one out of the way, but I'm excited," said Stastny, who has seven goals and 12 points in 21 games with the Blues this season. "I think I have a lot of friends [in Denver], not just hockey-wise.

"Once the puck drops, it'll just feel like a normal game. Sometimes the anticipation takes longer than normal, but it's part of the business."

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Bruins goalie Rask managing greater expectations

Thursday, 12.11.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

There's an expectation of perfection that hovers around Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask unlike most others who play a team sport.

The wish that he should make every save, regardless of difficulty, and win every game comes mostly from outside the Bruins dressing room, from media and fans.

The pressure might not be as great on Rask as it can be for a goaltender in Montreal or Toronto, but among New England athletes probably Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has more of a spotlight on him. And when things go wrong, Rask, fair or not, garners the majority of the blame.

Rask is judged by more than wins, losses and save percentage. He's compared to other goaltenders around the NHL. And he's compared to a goaltender who three years ago ended the Bruins' 39-year Stanley Cup drought with a Conn Smythe-winning performance. Rask's three runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender have ended in the second round twice and in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rask and the Bruins play the Blackhawks at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN360).

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Lightning's Stamkos evolving into all-around star

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 11:11 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

As difficult as Steven Stamkos has been to defend, the Tampa Bay Lightning captain used to be easy to find on the ice.

Youngest to 250 NHL goals
1. Wayne Gretzky - 22 years, 28 days
2. Mario Lemieux - 23 years, 77 days
3. Dale Hawerchuk - 23 years, 289 days
4. Alex Ovechkin - 24 years, 126 days
5. Pierre Turgeon - 24 years, 199 days
6. Steve Yzerman- 24 years, 222 days
7. Jimmy Carson - 24 years, 241 days
8. Mike Bossy - 24 years, 275 days
9. Michel Goulet - 24 years, 302 days
10. Steven Stamkos - 24 years, 305 days

"He used to post up at that left-wing dot and every goalie in the League knew it was coming and they couldn't stop it," NHL Network and TSN analyst Craig Button said. "It was like a fastball. The fastball is coming and you can't hit it."

It worked well for him. Stamkos scored 51 goals in his second season, including 24 off one-timers, of which 16 came from the left side, 14 from inside the circle.

"His one-timer from that side of the ice made him very famous very quick," former Lightning teammate Martin St. Louis told NHL.com.

It also made him somewhat predictable; so much so that defenses started to adjust to him by swinging coverage toward that side of the ice to ensure he wouldn't get the puck with time and space to bury a shot. It was the only way they could help their goaltender.

So Stamkos did the only thing he could do, the only thing smart players like him would do. He started to adjust to the defenses he was seeing. It has turned him into a complete player.

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Howard's strong play has Red Wings in contention

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Paul Harris - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- If you ask Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard what he is doing differently this season than in 2013-14, his response is "Nothing."

But, he adds, there is one difference.

Jimmy Howard
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 13-5-4
GAA: 2.21 | SVP: .917
"Just feel healthy, that's the biggest thing. I put in the work in the summertime," Howard said. "It [health] gives you the confidence to go out there and do your job."

Howard is 13-5-4 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .917 save percentage for Detroit, which has won seven of its past eight games. The Red Wings are 17-6-5 and on top of the Atlantic Division with 39 points heading into the Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA SPORTS).

Last season, Howard, 30, slumped with a 2.66 GAA after 2.12 and 2.13 the previous two seasons. He was hampered throughout 2013-14 with groin and shoulder injuries.

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Capitals' Wilson is thriving after move to first line

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Alex Ovechkin and Barry Trotz think Tom Wilson can be to the Washington Capitals what Milan Lucic already is to the Boston Bruins.

Ovechkin said he envisions a time in the near future when he, center Nicklas Backstrom and Wilson, who is 20 years old, resemble Boston's former top line with Lucic, center David Krejci and either Nathan Horton or Jarome Iginla.

"He's young and people don't know him well, but he's going to score two or three goals and people are going to put more attention on him and it's going to take attention away from me and [Backstrom]," Ovechkin told NHL.com. "Everybody is going to know that this line can produce no matter who is with the puck. He's still learning. We're helping him a lot. We talk and say what we have to do and what he has to do."

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Five things to watch in Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Detroit Red Wings haven't missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in more than two decades, the longest active streak in the NHL. With the way things are looking, it appears as though the Red Wings will still be playing when the regular season concludes in April.

Coach Mike Babcock and the Red Wings have won eight of their past 10 games and are atop the Atlantic Division heading into this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN, TVA SPORTS).

The Maple Leafs will be playing their second game in as many nights after a 4-1 win against the Calgary Flames at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. This is the first of two games between these Original Six rivals this week; Toronto will host Detroit on Saturday.

"It's always a great atmosphere, it's always a lot of fun with the 'Let's Go Red Wings' and the 'Go Leafs Go' chants," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard told the Red Wings website Tuesday. "It always makes for like a playoff atmosphere. It'll be no different [Wednesday]."

Here are five things to watch in the game between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings:

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Canadiens shine spotlight on Beliveau's seat

Wednesday, 12.10.2014 / 12:18 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens have sold out Bell Centre for 422 consecutive games.

All 383 regular-season games and 39 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs dating to Jan. 8, 2004 were officially listed as a sellout, a streak that is one month short of 11 years.

The streak was snapped Tuesday.

The official attendance for the Canadiens' 3-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks was listed as 21,286, one short of capacity, to account for the empty aisle seat in Row EE in Section 102, three rows behind the Montreal bench.

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Lightning's Stamkos humble scoring 250th goal

Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 10:33 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Long - NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos didn't want to make a big deal about closing in on his 250th NHL goal.

Truth be told, he doesn't think it's much of a milestone.

"It's kind of cool to think about when you are getting close to something like that, but I never really thought something-and-50 was a milestone," Stamkos said before scoring that goal against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. "I think when you get to 200, 300, 400 … I mean it's halfway to 500, but if we're at 499 one day you can ask me if I'm thinking about the next goal. Not that I am taking it for granted, it's always fun to score goals, but I want to help this team."

Stamkos scored 47 seconds into the second period at Amalie Arena. It tied the game 2-2, but the Lightning lost 5-3.

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Cameron took scenic route to Senators coaching job

Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 3:32 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Stevenson - NHL.com Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Dave Cameron apparently doesn't do anything too quickly.

The new coach of the Ottawa Senators jokingly said he holds the record for taking the longest to get an undergraduate degree at University of Prince Edward Island, at 10 years.

"I enrolled in '76, graduated with the class of '86," said the 56-year-old, who became the Senators' 10th coach when Paul MacLean was fired Monday.

Cameron was pursuing his career as a hockey player during that 10-year span, which included three NHL seasons with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils.

It's taken him a long time on a long road, but he has his first job as an NHL coach.

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Wild finding ways to survive loss of key defensemen

Tuesday, 12.09.2014 / 11:58 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- NHL players are conditioned to play through adversity. Injuries or illness are expected to be brushed aside as best as possible.

The Minnesota Wild have a strong hockey team, maybe one of the best in the NHL this season. They've also been dealing with a lot of key players missing from the lineup at various points because of adversity. What makes their situation a little out of the ordinary is the nature of why players are not available.

Five members of the Wild defense corps have contracted the mumps. No. 1 defenseman Ryan Suter is the most recent of the group, missing the past two games.

"It is bizarre," Wild captain Zach Parise said last week. "It is 2014, and who knew the mumps were still around, right? It's weird, and hopefully we don't see it around anymore."

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Quote of the Day

I've been so fortunate, blessed, to play a long time with some great players and be on power plays, play in some great cities and stuff. It's been fun.

— Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla on tying Dino Ciccarelli for 46th place on the NHL's all-time list with his 1,200th career point after their win vs. the Predators on Friday