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Around the League notebook for Saturday, Jan. 17

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 10:25 AM / News

NHL Public Relations

KINGS HONOR BLAKE

Former Los Angeles Kings captain/defenseman, current club executive and 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Rob Blake had his No. 4 jersey raised to the rafters at STAPLES Center.

Blake became the sixth Kings player to be so honored, joining Luc Robitaille (No. 20/2007), Wayne Gretzky (No. 99/2002), Dave Taylor (No. 18/1995), Marcel Dionne (No. /1990) and Rogie Vachon (No. /1985).

Blake is the all-time leader in games played, goals, assists and points by a Kings defenseman. He played 14 of his 20 NHL seasons with the Kings, including six as captain. He helped L.A. reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1993, won the franchise's first Norris Trophy in 1998 and made seven trips to the NHL All-Star Game, representing the Kings four times.

Click here to watch Blake's speech and here for Robitaille honoring his former teammate.

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Penguins' Bennett healthy at last, showing potential

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

After numerous stops and starts in two-and-a-half seasons as a pro, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Beau Bennett is finally starting to show signs he might have been worth that No. 20 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

"He's had some [bad] luck, but it's going good now," Penguins center Brandon Sutter said.

The biggest question for Bennett is, will he stay healthy long enough to fulfill his promise and prove without a shadow of a doubt that he was worth being a first-round pick?

Bennett is a long way from that considering he's played 61 NHL games, including 35 in the past two seasons. But if he can stay out of the trainer's room and off the operating table, he should be an important part of the Penguins' push for another Stanley Cup.

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Rangers rookie Hayes making impact in the middle

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- The question for New York Rangers forward Rick Nash was about the club's center depth in general. Nash's answer turned into a plug for the continued improvement of rookie center Kevin Hayes.

"Hayes has impressed me," Nash said. "You think about how mature his game is; he's been playing at a high-level of college for a while and what is he, 22? It's impressive the maturity in his game, especially to go up against a guy like [Joe] Thornton and hold his own."

Hayes has impressed a lot of people around the Rangers this season. He has become as important to the Rangers' success as any other role player.

Hayes was plugged in as the third-line center in his second NHL game. He has been stable in that position since, giving the Rangers the center depth a team needs to have sustained success in an NHL season.

His next test comes Sunday at Consol Energy Center against the Pittsburgh Penguins (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN), who roll out a 1-2-3 center rotation that is the envy of the League: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter.

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Sunday Long Read: Columbus first-rate hockey town

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

The scene that surrounded the Columbus Blue Jackets during Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series at Nationwide Arena was unfathomable for longtime fans in the area.

Here was a team the city could call its own, playing in a state-of-the-art building with a rollicking crowd roaring with every opportunity by the home side. The noise flowed onto the ice surface in waves, the fans screaming for the goal that would extend the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the perennial NHL powerhouse and burgeoning rival.

The eyes of the hockey world were on the Ohio capital as the pesky Blue Jackets attacked, looking to make the statement that after a 15-year journey they had arrived as a force.

Ed Gingher, who runs the city's only AAA youth hockey program, was there that night. He is heavily invested in what the Blue Jackets do because it directly impacts the talent pool available to feed his program; plus he does some work for the franchise. He is devoted to the sport, having played and coached it for much of his life.

"I've never heard a building as loud as the one in Columbus during that series," Gingher said.

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Rangers all-star Nash returning to Columbus

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Getting selected for the NHL All-Star Game rarely is the greatest motivator for a player. It's a good goal to have and certainly an accomplishment if achieved, but it's not what drives a player in the offseason, through training camp, or at the start of the season.

New York Rangers forward Rick Nash is usually no different, except 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend has a unique meaning for him, so the idea of getting there was more intriguing than ever before.

"I don't think I was striving for my play to be top-notch so I could go there, that definitely wasn't the issue, but it's nice," Nash said. "If there is one place where it would be fun to go to the All-Star Game it would be in Columbus."

Columbus is a special place to Nash. He was selected first in the 2002 NHL Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets and spent the next decade of his life helping build a hockey tradition in the market and a home for himself in the city, a home he still maintains.

Nash earned his spot in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, to be played Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), by playing the brand of hockey that fans in Columbus got used to over the years. He has been a factor for the Rangers all season and has 26 goals and 41 points in 42 games. He's been dominant in all areas, including on the penalty kill.

Nash, who will serve as an alternate captain for Team Toews, talked about going back to Columbus as an all-star, his favorite memory with the Blue Jackets, and his life now as a New Yorker:

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Rogers Hometown Hockey celebrates Charlottetown

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / News

NHL.com

City TV in Canada and NHL Network in the U.S. will televise "Rogers Hometown Hockey" at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday. In Canada, the show will be followed by the game between the Arizona Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets. The location this week is Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and the half-hour program will celebrate the city's iconic hockey story.

Among the features airing on the pregame show:

* Lanterns hang in the windows on Prince Edward Island to welcome sailors home from sea. They also help Chicago Blackhawks center Brad Richards find his way back to his family.

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Kings raise Blake's No. 4 to rafters of Staples Center

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 12:23 AM / News

Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- Rob Blake recalled the first time he stepped on the ice to play for the Los Angeles Kings at the old Great Western Forum.

"I looked up and it was [the jerseys of] Rogie Vachon and Marcel Dionne and later in my career it was Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille," Blake said. "The one thing I wanted to communicate with you from Day One: I wanted to be up there."

That dream came true Saturday when Blake was the sixth Kings player and first defenseman to have his jersey retired at Staples Center before the Kings played the Anaheim Ducks. He is the Kings' all-time leader in scoring and games played among defensemen and their only Norris Trophy winner.

"In my wildest dreams, I didn't think it would feel this good," Blake said.

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Unheralded Canadiens still among NHL's elite teams

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 12:22 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens can be a difficult team to understand. They have been hovering around the top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season, yet the Canadiens are rarely mentioned among the elite teams in the NHL.

But here they are with a 28-13-3 record following a 6-4 win at home Saturday against the New York Islanders, who entered the game having won four in a row, including a big 6-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home a night earlier.

The Islanders were 6-1-0 this season playing the second of back-to-back games and had won their past four under those circumstances before losing to the Canadiens.

Prior to the game, Montreal talked about the opportunity to prove a point against a team that was getting the accolades around the League that the Canadiens felt they deserved but weren't getting.

"You want to earn respect across the League," forward David Desharnais said. "It's by beating those teams that you're going to do that."

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Flyers defenseman Timonen still has blood clot in leg

Saturday, 01.17.2015 / 12:40 PM / News

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The blood clot in the lungs of Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen has cleared up, but the one in his leg has not, general manager Ron Hextall said Saturday.

"We have to get more doctors reports and then we're going to huddle up with the doctors within the next few days and try and figure out a direction here that we're going to take," Hextall said.

Timonen was diagnosed with the blood clots in September and has not played this season. At 39 years old, there's a question as to whether he'll be able to play again this season or in his career.

"Kimmo wants to play," Hextall said. "If everything checks out right and he wants to play, then he can play. It's going to come down to the risk, where we are in the season and all that. He's also got a decision to make too. … Even if there's no risk and he doesn't feel comfortable playing, then we'll live with that. If he really wants to play and everything we hear from the [doctor] checks out, then we'll allow him to play."

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Around the League notebook for Friday, Jan. 16

Saturday, 01.17.2015 / 9:36 AM / News

NHL Public Relations

OKPOSO SCORES FOUR, ISLANDERS WIN BATTLE FOR FIRST IN METROPOLITAN

Kyle Okposo (4-0—4) scored four times to lead the New York Islanders to a 6-3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders' fourth straight win improved their record to 30-13-1 (61 points) this season to remain first in the Metropolitan Division standings and pass the idle Tampa Bay Lightning for first in the Eastern Conference standings.

* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Islanders set a franchise record with 30 wins in their first 44 games to begin a season. The previous high the franchise recorded through 44 games was 29 wins (29-6-9) during the 1978-79 season. The Islanders have also won 15 of their first 19 home games (15-4-0). According to the Elias, the last time the franchise won 15 of their first 19 games on home ice was also during the 1978-79 season (15-0-4).

* Okposo's four-goal game was the first of his career and his first career hat trick. According to Elias, Okposo was the first member of the Islanders to score four goals in a game since Matt Moulson did so on Dec. 3, 2011 in a 5-4 win against the Dallas Stars. Okposo was also the seventh member of the Islanders to score four times in a game since the 1990-91 season; his predecessors were Derek King (four goals on Dec. 31, 1990), Ray Ferraro (four goals on Jan. 7, 1992), Steve Thomas (four goals on April 15, 1992), Alexei Yashin (four goals on March 25, 2003), Viktor Kozlov (four goals on Dec. 3, 2006) and Moulson.

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Quote of the Day

This is a great day for me. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. This is a great opportunity that the St. Louis Blues organization, (owner) Tom Stillman and Doug Armstrong are giving me and trusting me in doing...This is going to be a great challenge for me.

— Martin Brodeur, after announcing his retirement as an NHL player and becoming a senior adviser with the Blues on Thursday