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Fantasy top 60 'D': Penguins' Letang king of January

Wednesday, 02.04.2015 / 12:01 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Brian Metzer - Correspondent

Every Wednesday during the season, fantasy hockey correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with in-depth defensemen analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer will be your go-to guy for fantasy blue line advice all season long.

The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't have a lot to be excited about during the month of January. They posted a 5-4-3 record, but that was only part of an overall run that saw them go 6-8-4 over their past 18 games. That has been enough to cause more than a little panic in and around the three rivers, but one bright spot has emerged over the past few weeks: defenseman Kris Letang.

Letang, who saw last season wrecked by a number of health issues including a stroke, has been one of the Penguins best players through their first 50 games and he took it to another level during January.


Five things to watch when Rangers face Bruins

Wednesday, 02.04.2015 / 11:30 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Boston Bruins battled inconsistency and the injury bug this season while trying to keep pace in the Eastern Conference race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It appears now they will be a tough out when the postseason begins.

With a healthy captain, Zdeno Chara, and center David Krejci back in the mix, the Bruins went 8-1-3 in January and can leapfrog the New York Rangers in the standings in this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA).

Boston (27-16-7) and New York (29-15-4) will each be seeking its third consecutive victory. The Rangers enter the game one point ahead of the Bruins. Behind 30 saves from goalie Tuukka Rask, the Bruins defeated the Rangers 3-0 at TD Garden on Jan. 15.

Here are five things to watch in the game between the Bruins and Rangers:


Flames earn 'Cardiac Kids' reputation with late rallies

Wednesday, 02.04.2015 / 9:20 AM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley has affectionately dubbed his team the "Cardiac Kids."

He wouldn't have it any other way.

"The bottom line is the outcome at the end of the game," Hartley said. "That's where it counts the most. As long as we have a goal more at the final buzzer, that's why we're here and that's why our fans come to Scotiabank Saddledome every game to see it. We take the game as they come. We adjust. We make changes if we need to. One thing is for sure: We can always count on the guys to come in and give us a very proud effort."


Around the League notebook for Tuesday, Feb. 3

Wednesday, 02.04.2015 / 9:00 AM / News

NHL Public Relations


Mike Fisher (1-2—3) and Colin Wilson (1-1—2) scored less than five minutes apart in the third period to lift the Nashville Predators to a 4-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, their franchise record ninth straight home win.

* At 33-11-6 (72 points), the Predators continue to occupy first place in the NHL. Their 20 home wins and 41 home points share second and third in the League, respectively.

* Fisher matched a career high with three points for the second time in his past four games. He ranks eighth on the Predators with 13-12—25 in 29 GP this season.

* Wilson has 16-19—35 in 48 GP this season, matching career highs for goals and points set in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively. His four game-winning goals are one shy of his personal best also set in 2011-12.


Bruins' Chara back in form after early-season injury

Wednesday, 02.04.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

At first it seemed like life for the Boston Bruins without injured defenseman Zdeno Chara would be OK.

Chara tore a ligament in his knee in a loss to the New York Islanders on Oct. 23 but the Bruins won six of their next seven games. It looked like maybe the Bruins, who have Chara signed through the 2017-18 season at an NHL salary-cap charge of just less than $7 million, were fast-forwarding to the part of their history where they don't rely on their 6-foot-9 Norris Trophy-winning defenseman as much.

Then reality hit.

The Bruins managed a winning record (11-7-1) in the 19 games Chara missed during his seven weeks on the sidelines but were 2-4-1 in the seven games before his return Dec. 11. Then integrating Chara into the lineup proved problematic; Boston went 0-1-2 in his first three games back.


Rangers playing faster, better with Vigneault as coach

Wednesday, 02.04.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Evan Sporer - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- When Alain Vigneault was hired to coach the New York Rangers before the 2013-14 season, he wasn't taking over a rebuilding project. The Rangers had reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs the three seasons prior, and seven out of the past eight.

Still, there were areas in need of fixing and a coach was needed that preached a philosophy that addressed the Rangers' weaknesses. When the Rangers host the Boston Bruins in the NBCSN Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET), it will be Vigneault's 131st regular-season game with the Rangers, and the difference since he took over has been night and day.

Under Vigneault the Rangers have blossomed into one of the better offensive teams in the League. New York is averaging its most goals per game (2.98) since it scored 3.05 per game in the 2005-06 season. And while it's team speed that paces the Rangers, it's their coach's system that, more than a season and a half into his tenure, has them running at top speed.

"It's no secret, and you see all the teams in the League that are capable of playing a high-pace game," Vigneault said recently. "They're all teams that have a five-man unit. When they don't have the puck, to get it back, whether it's in their zone, the neutral zone or on the forecheck, but when their transition game is there it's from a breakout, to the transition to the neutral zone to the offensive zone."


Penguins' Perron raising his game alongside Crosby

Wednesday, 02.04.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Once David Perron got over his mixed emotions about being traded again, the Pittsburgh Penguins right wing started to feel something quite different on Jan. 2, something he hadn't felt in a long time.

"I was probably the happiest guy in hockey that day," Perron told last week before Pittsburgh's game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Nobody can blame him if he was. He went from last place to the Stanley Cup chase. He was moved out of a difficult situation with the Edmonton Oilers so he could become the right wing on a line with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

No offense to Leon Draisaitl and Matt Fraser, who were Perron's linemates for his last game with the Oilers, but playing with them is not like playing with Crosby and Chris Kunitz in Pittsburgh.

"Stepping into the room the first day, the way the room is shaped in Pittsburgh it's kind of rounded a little bit, and you could feel the confidence from the guys," Perron said. "I was sitting there going, 'This is awesome. This is going to be a lot of fun.' It just made me feel comfortable right away."


Sharks, Kings display rivalry in episode one on EPIX

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

With an opening montage showing sandy beaches, palm trees, surfers and skateboarders, the first episode of "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Stadium Series" instantly takes the viewer to California to set the scene for an introduction to a rivalry that is as hot now as it ever has been.

Away from the sand and surf are two teams, the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, which will be featured in the four-part series prior to taking their rivalry outside, to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 21 for the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game.

The first episode of the four-part series opens with behind-the-scenes, on-the-ice, and on-the-bench footage of the last game the two rivals will play before they take it outdoors under the Northern California sky.

The Sharks defeated the Kings 4-2 at SAP Center on Jan. 21 in what was fittingly part of NBCSN's Wednesday Night Rivalry series. EPIX had cameras all over SAP Center to prove how deep-rooted the rivalry between the teams is.


Jets forward Kane scratched against Canucks

Tuesday, 02.03.2015 / 10:16 PM / News

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane was a surprise late scratch against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday.

Kane, who is from Vancouver and played his junior hockey locally, talked excitedly about playing in his hometown Tuesday morning. Coach Paul Maurice did not mention Kane in his meeting with the media two hours before opening faceoff.

The 23-year-old left wing has 10 goals and 22 points in 37 games this season, but is minus-7 and hasn't scored a point in his past three games.


EPIX debuts four-part Stadium Series show Tuesday

The first episode of the four-part "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Stadium Series" serves as an introduction to a California rivalry that is as hot now as it ever has been.

The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings will meet at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 21 for the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game this season. The first episode of the series opens with behind-the-scenes, on-the-ice, and on-the-bench footage of the last game the two rivals played before they take it outdoors under the Northern California sky.

The Sharks beat the Kings 4-2 at SAP Center on Jan. 21 in what was fittingly part of NBCSN's Wednesday Night Rivalry series. EPIX had cameras all over SAP Center to prove how deep-rooted the rivalry between the teams is.

"When it comes to hockey we don't like each other," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty says. "We want bragging rights."

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Quote of the Day

For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Rangers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 that will be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday