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Player Profiles

Hornqvist hoping for more consistent scoring

Friday, 11.18.2011 / 10:44 AM / Player Profiles

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The 2011-12 NHL season has been one of feast or famine for Patric Hornqvist -- and, to an extent, for his Nashville Predators as well.

After struggling through an injury to his right foot, Hornqvist, a 30-goal scorer and Swedish Olympian in 2009-10, failed to register a point through the first eight games of the season (he sat out one of them) as his team went 3-4-1.

Then the hunger seemed to intensify -- at least, that's how one of the Predators' senior statesmen saw it -- and Hornqvist set a club record with goals in six straight games, posting seven overall in that span. Hornqvist's goal-scoring streak was snapped on Nov. 9, but he earned three assists in that game, helping Nashville to a 5-1-1 mark as he totaled 11 points during that seven-game run.

Nashville is among the NHL's hottest teams --the Predators are 7-1-2 in their last 10 after a 4-1 home win against Toronto on Thursday.

Hurricanes' Staal shifts to wing to snap funk

Wednesday, 11.16.2011 / 3:30 PM / Player Profiles

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

"At the point where I was at, I was willing to try whatever. When you're minus a bunch and not contributing on the offensive side it's frustrating because you know you can, but it just wasn't happening. It was a different look and it's been pretty good so far." -- Eric Staal

MONTREALEric Staal has played 578 games in his illustrious career with the Carolina Hurricanes, and in practically every single one of them he was listed as a center on one of the top two scoring lines.

But with Staal off to a miserable start to this season, sitting dead last in the League with a minus-17 rating, coach Paul Maurice had a novel idea to try and get his game on track – moving his top center to left wing on a line with Brandon Sutter and Chad LaRose.

"We've seen it work in the Olympics before," Maurice said Wednesday morning prior to the Hurricanes taking on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. "Mind you, that's a lot to be asking Brandon Sutter to be Sidney Crosby."

Caps visit to Nashville rekindles Ward memories

Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 4:27 PM / Player Profiles

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators right wing Patric Hornqvist took a peak over his right shoulder and looked at the whiteboard in his locker room. There was the name of his former teammate, Joel Ward, penciled in on the right wing next to center Nicklas Backstrom and left wing Alex Ovechkin.

"We were talking about that earlier before the skate," Hornqvist said of the incongruity of thinking about his former teammate playing with two of the League's most prolific scorers. "It's always a good thing to see him doing well. He's a great guy."

Even for Ward, it has taken a while to get used to.

"It is definitely a different system, different style," he said. "Scoring goals here is, geez, I think, right across the room a lot of guys can definitely put the puck in the net here. We had times in Nashville where we really struggled with that, so we had to play a different style or system."

Ward, a 6-foot-1, 226-pound workman-like forward who spent the previous three seasons in Nashville, scoring only 10 goals last season but leading the Preds in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 7 goals and 6 assists in 12 games, makes his return to Nashville on Tuesday, as his new team, Washington, visits the Preds.

Backstrom back at point-producing best for Caps

Friday, 11.11.2011 / 3:48 PM / Player Profiles

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Brooks Laich rimmed the puck around the end boards to Nicklas Backstrom in the far right corner. Laich was anticipating that Backstrom would give the puck a little more oomph to keep its momentum going up to Dennis Wideman at the right point, giving the Capitals a chance to set up their power play again.

That was Laich's first mistake, and he knows it. There's simply no way to anticipate what Backstrom is going to do, especially this season.

Instead of making the play that both Laich and Wideman thought he would, Backstrom fooled everybody by whipping a no-look backhanded pass through a pair of Dallas penalty killers descending on him, setting up Alex Semin at the right hash marks for a one-timer that he blasted past Kari Lehtonen.

"That's Nicky Backstrom," Laich told Friday morning after reenacting the play from Tuesday's game inside the visitor's dressing room at Prudential Center. "That's the type of play he is making."

Neal, a star in Pittsburgh, still follows the Stars

Friday, 11.11.2011 / 2:58 PM / Player Profiles

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- James Neal left the Dallas Stars, but the Dallas Stars haven't totally left him.

The Pittsburgh Penguins' left wing still keeps up with the team he started his NHL career with before he was traded to Pittsburgh with defenseman Matt Niskanen last February in the three-player deal that sent puck-moving defenseman Alex Goligoski to Dallas. It was a trade that benefited both teams, and one that each team probably would make again.

Souray making the most of his opportunity with Stars

Friday, 11.11.2011 / 9:00 AM / Player Profiles

Ben Raby - Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- Dallas Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray said he was just like any other player in the American Hockey League last season.

Sure, he had 650 games of NHL experience and was a three-time NHL All-Star. There also was that pink elephant in the room – the $4.5 million Souray was making to ride the bus with the AHL's Hershey Bears. But at the end of the day, like any minor leaguer, Souray said he was waiting for his phone to ring with news that he was heading back to "the show."

Halak beginning to move past shaky start to season

Wednesday, 11.09.2011 / 5:32 PM / Player Profiles

Louie Korac - Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jaroslav Halak came into his second season with the Blues with a full understanding that he would be "The Guy." The burden of the goaltending would, for the most part, rest squarely on his shoulders.

But an inauspicious start and the stellar play of backup Brian Elliott left many questioning whether Halak could shoulder the load. Questions began to abound if he was worth the risk.

Halak has admitted to playing poorly to start the season, but for many that don't realize, it wasn't just about stepping onto the ice and between the pipes for the Bratislava, Slovakia native. This season had a different and terribly unfortunate beginning to it after Halak lost friend and countryman Pavol Demitra, who died suddenly in the Lokomotiv plane crash in September.

"He was there and the next day, you never see him again," Halak said Wednesday of Demitra, whom he played with for the Slovakia national team. "Obviously it's tough to lose someone like that. He was a great hockey player and great person, husband and father. 

Smith enjoying bounce-back year in the desert

Wednesday, 11.09.2011 / 10:32 AM / Player Profiles

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE. Ariz. – After averaging 100 points and reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons, the Phoenix Coyotes were picked by preseason prognosticators to plunge to the depths of a very deep Western Conference in 2011-12.

When viewed as a one-man team, as the Coyotes were, and that man leaves, the pundit logic appeared airtight.

That one man was Coyotes' MVP and Vezina Trophy candidate Ilya Bryzgalov. During the summer, Bryzgalov fled Arizona for Philadelphia and a $51-million deal the Coyotes had no desire to counter. To replace the MVP, the Coyotes tabbed Mike Smith – an agile, talented goalie who was sporting a regrettably slim resume – to occupy Bryzgalov's deserted place between the Phoenix pipes.

Henrique shedding temporary tag with clutch plays

Wednesday, 11.09.2011 / 9:40 AM / Player Profiles

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils rookie forward Adam Henrique admits he never once received any sly remarks regarding the curvature -- or lack thereof -- on his hockey stick during his career.
That is until New Jersey assistant coach Adam Oates got a closer look at the flat-as-a-pancake blade.
"It's the Mike Modano curve," Henrique told "I've had it my whole life. Nobody has ever given me heck for it until I got here and Adam Oates saw it -- he doesn't like it."
Sounds like quite a predicament for a 21-year-old, first-year League player, eh? Here's Adam Oates, an NHL veteran who amassed 341 goals and 1,420 points across 19 NHL seasons, advising Henrique to consider switching his stick blade.

Seguin developing into complete player for Bruins

Monday, 11.07.2011 / 3:02 PM / Player Profiles

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

Tyler Seguin
Center - BOS
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 14
SOG: 39 | +/-: 10
BOSTON -- For his family and friends attending the Boston Bruins game at Toronto last Saturday night, Tyler Seguin brought along a special treat.

The second-year winger carried with him his Stanley Cup championship ring, which he admitted he hadn't looked at since the home opener, to show off during his first trip back to his hometown since the ring ceremony.

Little did anyone know that Seguin's performance would overshadow the opportunity to view the 300-diamond prize.

Seguin's first NHL hat trick highlighted the Bruins' 7-0 rout of the Maple Leafs. Back on home ice for Monday night's game against the New York Islanders, Seguin wasn't thinking about producing another offensive eruption as an encore.
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