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Player Profiles

Kostitsyn shows stick-to-itiveness with Preds

Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 9:00 AM / Player Profiles

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Shyness, nervousness and cautiousness -- those are the words Nashville Predators general manager David Poile used to describe left wing Sergei Kostitsyn when he arrived in training camp last year.

Sergei Kostitsyn
Left Wing - NSH
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 5
SOG: 6 | +/-: -1
In a physical game that demands a different "ness" in order to succeed -- namely, aggressiveness -- that is not exactly the ideal way to start off with a new team.

The Predators had acquired Kostitsyn on June 29, 2010, for almost nothing, sending center Dustin Boyd and goalie Dan Ellis to Montreal. The Canadiens did not sign Ellis, a pending unrestricted free agent, and Boyd played 10 games for them, registering 1 goal and a minus-6 rating.

Perhaps the Canadiens expected Kostitsyn might post similar numbers to Boyd's in Nashville. Instead, Kostitsyn battled through a rocky training camp and first quarter of the season and finished as Nashville's top goal scorer, posting a career-high 23.

Gill has carved career proving detractors wrong

Wednesday, 10.19.2011 / 6:02 PM / Player Profiles

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Que. -- When Hal Gill first cracked an NHL roster with the Boston Bruins back in 1997, it would have been hard to imagine he would reach this point.

Gill will suit up for his 1,000th career NHL game Thursday night in Pittsburgh when his Montreal Canadiens face the Penguins, and throughout his long journey the rangy defenseman has been forced to prove himself, right from Day 1.

After an impressive training camp with the Bruins 14 years ago, the late Pat Burns told him that if it were up to him, Gill would be cut. But his trusted assistant coach Jacques Laperriere saw something in Gill, and Burns deferred to his judgment.

"Well, Jacques wants to keep you around," Gill remembers Burns telling him. "I don't really see it, but I'm going to go with Jacques on this one."

Good call.

Meteoric rise sees Smith land spot with Predators

Friday, 10.14.2011 / 6:19 PM / Player Profiles

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- In a way, it's not surprising that Craig Smith made the jump directly from the University of Wisconsin straight to the Nashville Predators. For Smith, the organization is sort of like home away from home.

Smith is a native of Madison, Wis., the same hometown as Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, who also came through the Badgers' program and is less than four years Smith's senior. A third Badger on the Preds is center Blake Geoffrion, a teammate of Smith's for one season who acted as sort of an unofficial counselor when Smith was trying to decide whether to turn pro.

Smith knew after electing to turn pro following his sophomore season that even if he didn't make the Preds, he had the safety net of playing with their American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee, not much more than an hour's drive from his hometown.

Unburdened Richards enjoying fresh start with Kings

Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 10:08 AM / Player Profiles

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Mike Richards
Center - LAK
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 7 | +/-: -2
Mike Richards is still smiling and laughing.

It's toward the end of his third round of interviews with reporters in the Kings' dressing room at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, and there is the ex-Flyers captain -- the exact same guy who could, at times, be indignant and condescending with the media in Philadelphia -- still standing in his equipment, sweat dripping after a long practice, just giddy talking hockey and the start of a new chapter in his life and career.

Richards, who talked to after a smattering of Swedish reporters walked away, can honestly assess his frame of mind now that he feels fully adjusted to life in L.A.

Bolland a key figure in Blackhawks' success

Tuesday, 10.11.2011 / 5:09 PM / Player Profiles

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- A lot of teams might not worry all that much about an injury to the third-line center.

It's different for the Chicago Blackhawks, though, who often are asked about the health of 25-year old center Dave Bolland -- the sparkplug for an energizing, gritty checking line that usually makes life miserable for opposing star forwards.

When Bolland is healthy, everything lines up the right way for the Hawks. Their top two lines are loaded with highly skilled players and centered by stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Add Bolland's line -- capable of affecting the game at both ends of the ice -- and the Hawks really have something special.

Subtract Bolland from the middle of that third line, however, and it becomes a pretty big deal. The Hawks struggle to fill the void and it usually becomes a gaping hole. That's why Bolland's undisclosed upper-body injury in the preseason drew so much attention.

Toews hungrier than ever to win a Stanley Cup

Thursday, 09.15.2011 / 2:29 PM / Player Profiles

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

A stronger, fresher and, if you can believe it, hungrier Jonathan Toews is entering his fifth NHL season with a healthy understanding that winning in this League actually isn't as easy as it may have once seemed.

"I don't think a lot of us realized how good we were and how unique our situation was (two seasons ago). Maybe if you do and you know all those things, and you're a guy that has been in the League for 15 years and has been that close a number of times, you're putting way more pressure on yourself not to screw that opportunity up. This past season we realized how difficult it actually is whereas in the moment of two seasons ago we were winning games, having fun and it seemed all so simple."
-- Jonathan Toews

Toews gained his newfound perspective in the months after completing one of the most topsy-turvy seasons of his hockey life, one in which his Chicago Blackhawks were left for dead only to rise to near historic heights before crashing in the most heart-wrenching way.

The difficulties of last season coupled with the emotional playoff series against Vancouver forced Toews to gain a stronger appreciation for what he and his teammates accomplished in winning the Stanley Cup two seasons ago.

"You definitely realize how tough it is to do what you did the year before, and maybe that was a blessing in disguise that we did win (in 2010)," Toews told "I don't think a lot of us realized how good we were and how unique our situation was (two seasons ago). Maybe if you do and you know all those things, and you're a guy that has been in the League for 15 years and has been that close a number of times, you're putting way more pressure on yourself not to screw that opportunity up. This past season we realized how difficult it actually is whereas in the moment of two seasons ago we were winning games, having fun and it seemed all so simple."

Hjalmarsson and Hawks ready for fresh start

Wednesday, 09.07.2011 / 4:13 PM / Player Profiles

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks had a number of players who needed a break from hockey after losing Game 7 of their first-round playoff series to the rival Vancouver Canucks.

Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was one of them. Mentally he was drained and physically he was aching after trying unsuccessfully to defend the Hawks' 2010 Stanley Cup title.
"I needed to heal a little bit," Hjalmarsson said following a recent team charity event. "It was a short summer last year, but I'll take that any day if we go all the way. Still, it's not too fun to go out the way we did, coming back from 0-3 and losing. It took a while to be happy again, but it's been a good summer. I feel like I'm in good shape and I just can't wait to get the season started."

That was the general feeling among all Hawks players in July at the annual fan convention. Unlike a year ago, when they practically dreaded the start of training camp, the Hawks are driven once again to get back to the top.

Bobrovsky becoming more comfortable in America

Tuesday, 08.30.2011 / 1:27 PM / Player Profiles

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky looks to be about the same 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds he measured when he arrived here for training camp last year. However, the player currently getting in shape for training camp has grown immeasurably entering his second season in the National Hockey League.

Bobrovsky told he's more confident on and off the ice, especially in one very important area -- his grasp of the English language.

"Yes, I think so," he said in his first extensive English-language interview when asked about his comfort level with the language. "I'm one year being here and I'm studying English, learning English."

Drury punctuates comeback with goal in first shift

Saturday, 04.09.2011 / 5:31 PM / Player Profiles

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Chris Drury has served mostly as a proverbial punching bag for Rangers fans since arriving from the Buffalo Sabres as a free agent in the summer of 2007.

In three full seasons, Drury never exceeded 58 points with the Rangers. This came after finishing his time in Buffalo with two straight 30-goal seasons, including 37 the season before he came to New York. This season has been a nightmare for the 34-year-old; injuries kept him in the press box and infirmary for all but 23 of the first 81 games.

Perry hopes strong March previews long spring run

Friday, 04.01.2011 / 3:32 PM / Player Profiles

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Everyone is having a hard time explaining Corey Perry's hot streak in March.

And that includes Corey Perry.

"You just go into every game expecting to play well," said Perry, who was named the NHL's First Star for March on the strength of his 15 goals in 14 games. "Things happened in March that don't happen very often. It's one of those things where you go out, play your game and see what happens. Hopefully there's more to come."

The Anaheim Ducks feel the same way. Perry's individual success has coincided with the team's ascension in the Western Conference standings. The Ducks entered March in 11th place, three points out of eighth; they finished March in seventh place with 93 points, six points clear of ninth place and just two points behind fourth-place Phoenix.

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