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Stars should shine when Capitals visit Blackhawks

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It's a matchup that won't lack for big names when the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals meet outside on New Year's Day at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa top the list of Chicago's elite players. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green will headline the roster for the Capitals.

The Capitals and Blackhawks will give fans a preview of that New Year's Day game Friday at United Center (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). It's the only other time the teams will play this season, so it should be a good primer for the Winter Classic.

"They've obviously got some dangerous players that can hurt you pretty quick," Kane said of the Capitals. "As far as the Winter Classic goes it could be a great matchup with a lot of talent and a lot of players that can do some special things to maybe help get the fans out of their seats."

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Vande Sompel to play in two OHL Super Series games

Friday, 11.07.2014 / 2:19 PM / News

NHL.com

Mitchell Vande Sompel, a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft, will play in both games for the Ontario Hockey League against Russia in the 2014 Subway Super Series, the OHL announced Friday.

Vande Sompel, a defenseman with the Oshawa Generals, was added to the OHL roster for Game 3, on Nov. 13 in Peterborough, Ontario. He replaces Alexander Peters, a Dallas Stars prospect, who is unable to play because of an injury. Vande Sompel initially was named to the roster for Game 4 of the series, Nov. 17 in Kingston, Ontario.

He entered play Friday tied for the lead among OHL defensemen with 19 points in 16 games. The 5-foot-10, 182-pound defender earned a B rating from NHL Central Scouting on its preliminary players to watch list.

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Tarasenko, Luongo among hot fantasy topics

Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

We've just about reached the point of no return, at least in my book. As I stated a few weeks ago, I tend to give players a 12-15 game trial every season to prove themselves. If they've performed at a high level for those 12-15 games, I have reason to believe they can continue to perform at that level for at least most of the remainder of the season. If they've struggled and disappointed in those 12-15 games, I usually start to think this might not be their season.

Of course, players will prove my benchmark wrong. Claude Giroux's 2013-14 season got off to an abysmal start when he went without a goal in his first 15 games. We all know what happened after that.

There will be Girouxs this season. At some point players like Anze Kopitar, David Backes and Gabriel Landeskog should turn things around. But for lesser-known players, the 12-15 game benchmark usually has worked for me. This is your chance to start gauging what you can expect from a player this season.

St. Louis Blues sensation Vladimir Tarasenko is the perfect example. Tarasenko's been the hottest topic in fantasy hockey this week and is the No. 2 overall fantasy player in Yahoo leagues. Will he remain a top-10 player? Maybe. But he's the type of player that has proved to me he can carry this hot start throughout the season. I'm a believer.

Let's have a look at some other hot topics in fantasy hockey right now.
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Mazanec continues North American adjustment in AHL

Friday, 11.07.2014 / 11:39 AM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Though there's no definite number, Oxford Dictionaries estimates there are over 250,000 words in the English language. That's not including slang, technical or scientific terms. For those who grow up with English as their native tongue, it's often hard to fathom just how vast the language really is, and how so many of the "rules" are broken on a sentence-by-sentence basis.

Marek Mazanec, a sixth-round pick (No. 179) of the Nashville Predators in the 2012 NHL Draft, knew just a handful of those 250,000 -- if that. After three seasons backstopping HC Plzen of the Czech Extraliga, the highest level of hockey in the Czech Republic, Mazanec split the 2013-14 season almost evenly between the Predators and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.

The adjustment was twofold.

"Everything was new for me last year. Different country, language, people, hockey style," Mazanec said. "The hardest part was my bad English. I got lucky [with] the people in the Predators organization. Everyone tried to help me, so they made it little easier for me."

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Super 16: Blues' Tarasenko among elite Russians

Friday, 11.07.2014 / 3:00 AM / Super 16: NHL Power Rankings

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The St. Louis Blues have won six games in a row despite injuries to forwards Paul Stastny and T.J. Oshie (and a temporary absence for captain David Backes). One of the biggest reasons the Blues have stormed back near the top of the League standings after an uneven start is the play of forward Vladimir Tarasenko.

While Stastny was the headliner among the offseason additions, with forward Jori Lehtera and a full-time roster spot for goaltender Jake Allen probably next in line, one of the best reasons to think St. Louis could improve in 2014-15 was the maturation of Tarasenko and forward Jaden Schwartz. Tarasenko is off to a great start with eight goals and 14 points in 12 games, including the best goal of the season to date Monday at Madison Square Garden and then the lone goal of the game one day later across the Hudson River at Prudential Center.

Tarasenko is already one of the top Russian players in the NHL (in the NHL is an important distinction, because he was not happy with his role on the national team in February). Where does he stack up among the top Russians in the League? Here's a look at the most productive players from his homeland since Tarasenko joined the Blues at the start of the 2012-13 season:

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Better defense not equaling wins for Capitals yet

Friday, 11.07.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Vingan - NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz hasn't sacrificed his offensive talent for stouter defense through 12 games, as he promised when hired in May.

Washington is averaging 3.08 goals per game and allowing 25.2 shots. Seven times this season, the Capitals have held an opponent to 25 or fewer shots, something they did 12 times in two seasons under former coach Adam Oates. The Capitals are also surrendering about 10 fewer 5-on-5 shot attempts per 60 minutes than they did last season, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com.

That vast defensive improvement, though, hasn't led to early-season success.

The Capitals enter a preview of the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) embroiled in a five-game losing streak.

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Around the League notebook for Thursday, Nov. 6

Friday, 11.07.2014 / 2:31 AM / News

NHL Public Relations

BLUES HOLD ON FOR SEVENTH CONSECUTIVE WIN

The New Jersey Devils scored three goals in the final 3:25 of regulation, ending Jake Allen’s shutout streak at 184:38, but David Backes’ power-play goal at 17:28 of the final frame stood as the game-winner as the St. Louis Blues won their seventh consecutive game.

* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Allen’s shutout streak is the longest ever by a Blues rookie, surpassing Ernie Wakely's mark of 150:50 set in 1969-70. The last NHL rookie with a streak as long as Allen’s was Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008-09 (199:28).

* Allen’s streak is the fifth-longest in Blues history, behind Brian Elliott (241:33 in 2011-12, 214:02 in 2012-13), Manny Legace (187:39 in 2007-08) and Greg Millen (184:47 in 1988-89).

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Maple Leafs forward Winnik taken off ice on stretcher

Friday, 11.07.2014 / 1:32 AM / News

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- Forward Daniel Winnik sustained a head injury early in the first period of the Toronto Maples Leafs' 4-3 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Thursday but should be fine, coach Randy Carlyle said.

"It’s one of those situations where you’re expecting a lot worse and he isn’t any worse for wear," Carlyle said.

Winnik was taken off the ice on a stretcher after landing on his head while still wearing a helmet following a collision at center ice with Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda just across the Colorado blue line 45 seconds into the game.

Winnik didn't appear to be moving as he lay on the ice and was being attended to by medical staff, but he was blinking his eyes and moving the fingers on his right hand after being strapped to the stretcher.

"After I just watched it I didn’t think it was that bad," Carlyle said. "The bad part about it was he was out of it. He didn’t move. That left everybody gasping.

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Red Wings goalie Gustavsson dislocated shoulder

Thursday, 11.06.2014 / 7:14 PM / News

NHL.com

Detroit Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson will miss the next several weeks because of a dislocated left shoulder sustained Wednesday against the New York Rangers, general manager Ken Holland said Thursday.

"I don't have any timeframe for you," Holland told the Red Wings website. "I don't know if he needs surgery or doesn't need surgery. I know it's dislocated. He's out for a significant period of time."

Gustavsson, 30, will have X-rays and be evaluated Friday. He was injured reaching for a rebound before Derick Brassard scored 1:50 into overtime to give the Rangers a 4-3 win. He made 26 saves in his first start in five games.

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Maple Leafs forward Ashton suspended 20 games

Thursday, 11.06.2014 / 4:26 PM / News

NHL.com

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Carter Ashton was suspended 20 games without pay Thursday for violating the terms of the NHL/NHL Players' Association Performance Enhancing Substances Program.

Ashton will forfeit $169,185 in salary and under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement the suspension is accompanied by a mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.

"The Toronto Maple Leafs support the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program and today's decision to suspend forward Carter Ashton," Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. "At this time, out of respect for Carter and the process involved, the club will not comment any further."

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Quote of the Day

It's something that you don't really envision starting this way, but when you put the work in you don't feel like it's unwarranted. You definitely don't envision it unfolding this way, but you do think you can be successful at this level.

— Senators goalie Andrew Hammond, who defeated the Jets on Wednesday to improve to 6-0-1 since making his first NHL start on Feb. 18