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2010-2011 Season Preview

Kovalchuk, Stamkos among players to watch

Friday, 10.01.2010 / 6:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

There are certain NHL players who will command fans' attention no matter where or when they are playing: Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Washington's Alex Ovechkin and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, to name a few.

There are also unknowns coming into each season who create a buzz and have everyone eager to see how well they acclimate to the League -- in 2010-11 that list includes top draft picks Taylor Hall of Edmonton, Tyler Seguin of Boston and Erik Gudbranson of Florida.

Who are some of the other NHL players who will be under the microscope this season and bear watching?

Ilya Kovalchuk ranks right up with Crosby and Ovechkin among the elite players of the past decade, but he bears some extra watching because this will be his first full season with the New Jersey Devils after coming over in a February trade from the Atlanta Thrashers. There's also the issue of Kovalchuk's brand-new 15-year contract, which took most of the summer to finalize after the League rejected the Devils' original 17-year deal because it circumvented the salary cap. Kovalchuk is a two-time 50-goal scorer, a plateau that's never been reached by a New Jersey player. If he opens the season, as expected, on a line with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, it could happen.

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Whitney excited about move to Phoenix

Friday, 10.01.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

"I did watch a lot of their games last season. Being on the East Coast, you get to catch a lot of the late games. I also watched them in the playoffs and had the feeling this is a team heading in the right direction. With Dave Tippett as coach, it was an intriguing situation."
-- Ray Whitney

It's not often a team gets the chance to improve itself by adding a player who's skated in more than 1,000 NHL games, recorded upward of 300 goals and 800 points and lifted the Stanley Cup over the course of his career.

But that's exactly what the Phoenix Coyotes pulled off this summer with the signing of veteran left wing Ray Whitney to a two-year contract.

Although he turned 38 in May, what Whitney accomplished during his five seasons in Carolina suggests he only has gotten better with age. He helped the Hurricanes to the franchise's first championship in 2006, followed that with a career season in which he totaled 32 goals and 83 points, and then averaged 23 goals and 65 points over the last three seasons.

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Coyotes get boost from tight free-agent market

Friday, 10.01.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes' financial situation is no mystery -- the team is still owned by the National Hockey League, which has been looking for a buyer for nearly a year.

But as general manager Don Maloney sought to strengthen the foothold the Coyotes gained in the Western Conference with their first playoff appearance in eight years, they finally got an offseason boost from the economy.

Malone figured he had done all he could by replacing the lost firepower of center Matthew Lombardi with veteran forward Ray Whitney, and he was resigned to leaning on his farm system to fill the holes up front. But then the bottom dropped out of the free-agent market, putting the up-and-coming Coyotes on more equal financial ground -- and allowing Maloney to make some last-minute upgrades.

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Martin, Michalek part of Pens' new-look defense

Friday, 10.01.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans have a lot to get excited about this season.

For starters, the Pens will open their new 18,087-seat arena, Consol Energy Center, on Oct. 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers in what is sure to be an emotional evening. The state-of-the-art, $321 million facility should keep the Penguins in Steel Town long after Sidney Crosby's No. 87 is raised to the rafters.

On Jan. 1, the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will feature Crosby's Penguins against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at nearby Heinz Field, home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. Leading up to that much-anticipated game will be a four-episode series produced by HBO Sports -- debuting Dec. 15 -- that will give fans an inside look at their favorite team in a way they never thought possible.
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Phoenix looks to rise to ranks of Western elite

Friday, 10.01.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

A remarkable 2009-10 season for the Phoenix Coyotes started in the ultimate state of flux.

With questions about ownership and talk of possible relocation swirling around the team, Wayne Gretzky stepped down as coach just nine days before Phoenix was set to open up in Los Angeles.

Enter Dave Tippett, who by the time the summer rolled around had won the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year after guiding the Coyotes to a franchise-record 50 wins, their first playoff berth since 2002 and all the way to a Game 7 against the then two-time defending Western Conference champion Red Wings before they were ousted in the quarterfinals.

For someone who led the Dallas Stars to the postseason in five of his six years there and topped 100 points three times, it was arguably the greatest coaching performance of Tippett's career. Now he actually gets to experience what it's like to go through an entire training camp with the Coyotes instead of having to adjust on the fly.
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New additions on D could make Pens more complete

Friday, 10.01.2010 / 2:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Sergei J. Feldman - NHL.com Staff Writer

Offense has been as much a trademark of the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Primanti's sandwich has been with the city's residents.

From Jean Pronovost through Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis and Jaromir Jagr to the 1-2 combo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have always been able to put the puck in the net.

But while Sid and Geno have turned the Penguins into annual contenders, a newly-constructed defensive unit may be the group that determines whether the Pens have a Stanley Cup in their future next spring.

After an up-and-down 2009-10 season that resulted in a disappointing second-round playoff exit, General Manager Ray Shero found himself wondering what went wrong.
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Busy offseason finds big names in new places

Thursday, 09.30.2010 / 9:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

The champagne had barely dried on the Chicago Blackhawks' first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years when the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues engineered a June 17 trade centering around playoff hero Jaroslav Halak, and a summer full of player movement in the NHL was off to a flying start.

Free agency doesn't begin until July 1 but deals can happen anytime, and plenty of them took place in the two weeks after Halak was swapped for prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. In numerous cases, one or more of the players being moved were unrestricted free agents whose former teams felt they had little hope of re-signing them and wanted to get back anything they could instead of just losing the player outright.

Take the case of defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who had played his entire career for the Nashville Predators. His rights were dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers on June 19, but after being unable to come to terms they shipped him six days later to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ultimately, Hamhuis ended up signing a six-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks.
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Flyers greats laud last season's performance

Thursday, 09.30.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Former Philadelphia Flyers winger Bob Kelly admits he and his former teammates would have gladly passed the championship torch had last year's team celebrated a Stanley Cup victory.
 
"I think all Flyers alumni felt last season's team was a unanimous choice to take over as Cup champions for this city," Kelly told NHL.com.
 
But it never happened as the Chicago Blackhawks captured the Stanley Cup following a 4-3 overtime decision at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center in Game 6.
 
NHL.com recently caught up with former "Broad Street Bullies" and two-time Stanley Cup winners Kelly, Bill Clement, Dave Schultz and Orest Kindrachuk to discuss the Flyers and their chances of making another postseason run.
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Hornqvist proves draft position doesn't matter

Thursday, 09.30.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

"I was just so happy to get drafted and have a chance to make it to the NHL. Every time you play in the streets as a kid, you're dreaming of playing in the NHL. I was just happy to get the chance."
-- Patric Hornqvist

Some players might take being the last pick of the draft as a slight, a motivating factor to go out and prove that the 29 teams that repeatedly passed him over were wrong.

Patric Hornqvist never had a chip on his shoulder, however. For the Nashville Predators forward, a product of Sollentuna, Sweden, it wasn't about where he was taken; instead, it was the realization of a lifelong dream.

"I was just so happy to get drafted and have a chance to make it to the NHL," Hornqvist, the 230th and final selection in the 2005 Entry Draft, told NHL.com. "Every time you play in the streets as a kid, you're dreaming of playing in the NHL. I was just happy to get the chance."
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Poile-Trotz: A long-term success

Thursday, 09.30.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

"You look at businesses outside of sports, and successful companies, I'm not saying they don't make changes, but having people you work with and can be on the same page with philosophically, that's big in order to be functionally successful."
-- Predators GM David Poile, on the long-term partnership between him and head coach Barry Trotz

When it comes to the Nashville Predators, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Not everything about the franchise is identical to when it started play 12 years ago. The home building has worn several monikers, most recently going from the Sommet Center to Bridgestone Arena. The team captaincy also has switched hands a number of times, with Shea Weber taking over this season for the departed Jason Arnott.

But the Predators have been a model of stability in many ways. David Poile has remained firmly entrenched in his position as general manager, with Barry Trotz running the on-ice product from behind the bench since Day 1. And in five of the past six seasons, Nashville has found itself participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- not a bad run of success in an always competitive Western Conference. 
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Quote of the Day

They said, 'You're going to love the city. It's smaller than Philadelphia, but you're going to love it. You're going to love the fans. Just watching the playoffs last year, the fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere. I'm really excited about that.

— Forward Scott Hartnell on his upcoming season with the Columbus Blue Jackets