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Battle for playoff spots starts tomorrow

NHL.com @NHL
The pressure's on from day one of the 2007-08 NHL season

Which team will have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup in 2007-08?
NEW YORK  -- In a matter of hours, the most international of the North American professional sports leagues will open its 90th anniversary season in the sparkling, sold-out setting of the 02 Arena in London, England. The Stanley Cup -- the most cherished team trophy in sports -- returns to its ancestral homeland in the arms of the champion Anaheim Ducks, who open defense of their National Hockey League crown by facing the Los Angeles Kings in the two-game Premiere 2007 series that will make history as the first NHL regular-season games ever played in Europe.

The Premiere series will stamp a spectacular start on a 2007-08 season that will feature a parade of highlights for NHL fans. Every NHL club knows that the points earned on Opening Night can make the difference between a playoff spot and a long summer. Close races, close games and close calls are the mainstays of NHL excitement.

Think A Good Start Matters?

* The past three Stanley Cup champions have a combined October record of 23-2-5. Tampa Bay went 6-0-1 in October, 2003; Carolina went 8-2-1 in October 2005; Anaheim went an astounding 9-0-3 in October, 2006.

* The past 10 Stanley Cup champions have a combined October record of 78-17-14.

* The past two Presidents' Trophy winners have a combined October record of 21-1-1. The Detroit Red Wings went 11-1-0 at the start of the 2005-06 season and the Buffalo Sabres went 10-0-1 last October.

Every Game, Every Point Can Make A Difference

* Just eight points separated the top 10 clubs in the League's overall standing in 2006-07.

* All six division titles, both conference titles and the Presidents' Trophy were still up for grabs with less than a week remaining

* The Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils earned a League-high 14 points in games they trailed in the last five minutes of the third period. The Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs, who missed the playoffs by one point in their respective conferences, earned two and three points, respectively, in such games.

* The Vancouver Canucks, who captured the Northwest Division by one point, won 12 games in overtime -- at least double the total of all but two clubs. The Atlanta Thrashers and Minnesota Wild each had seven such victories.

* The Tampa Bay Lightning, who finished 7th in the Eastern Conference, went 10-2 in shootouts. They would have finished 11th with a 6-6 shootout mark.

15 Teams in a Conference, Eight Playoff Spots. Do the math . . .

* It took 92 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference last season; the ninth-place team, Toronto, finished with 91.

* It took 96 points to make the playoffs in the Western Conference last season; the ninth-place team, Colorado, finished with 95.

Nailbiters

* Nearly half of last season's games (567 of 1,230, 46.1%) were decided by one goal. Nearly half those games (281 of 567, 49.6%) went to overtime and 164 of the overtime games went to shootout.

* In all, two-thirds of last year's games (833 of 1,230, 67.7%) were decided by two goals or fewer.

Mr. Consistency

* Over the past 10 seasons, no NHL skater has more goals (402), assists (588) or points (990) than the Rangers' Jaromir Jagr.

Shanahan
* Rounding out the top five most productive goal scorers over the past 10 seasons: Teemu Selanne (377); Brendan Shanahan of the Rangers (339), Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs (332) and Keith Tkachuk of the St. Louis Blues (329).

* Rounding out the top five most productive playmakers over the past 10 seasons: Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche (518); Peter Forsberg (502); Doug Weight of St. Louis (474) and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings (471).

* Rounding out the top five in points over the past 10 seasons: Sakic (843); Selanne (793); Sundin (779) and Paul Kariya of St. Louis (719).

Brodeur
* Over the past 10 seasons, the New Jersey Devils have the most wins in the Eastern Conference (458), and Martin Brodeur has been their goalie in 412 of them.

* Over the past 10 seasons, the Detroit Red Wings have the most victories in the Western Conference (477) to go with seven division titles, two Presidents' Trophies and three Stanley Cups. Also in that span: They have led the West in points in four of the past five seasons, haven't been worse than second in the Conference in the past six seasons and have never been worse than third.

What does he do for an encore?

Malkin
* Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin led all NHL rookies in scoring last season with 33 goals, 52 assists and 85 points. In each of the past two seasons, an NHL sophomore has surpassed the 100-point plateau. Malkin's teammate, Sidney Crosby, led the NHL in scoring last season with 36-84--120, and Carolina's Eric Staal went 45-55--100 in 2005-06.

* The next three "Super Sophomore" seasons over the past 10: Washington's Alex Ovechkin (46-46--92 in 2006-07), Atlanta's Dany Heatley (41-48--89 in 2002-03) and Buffalo's Thomas Vanek (43-41--84 last season).

* The five top goal-scoring seasons by a sophomore in the past 10 seasons: Ovechkin, 46 (last season); Staal's 45 in 2005-06; Vanek's 43 and the 41 recorded by Heatley and by Rick Nash of Columbus (2003-04).

Family Affair

Brent Sutter takes over behind the New Jersey Devils' bench and becomes the fourth member of his fraternity to coach an NHL team. Brian Sutter coached 1,028 games with St. Louis, Boston, Calgary and Chicago, compiling a record of 451-437-140. Darryl Sutter coached 860 games with Chicago, San Jose and Calgary, going 409-339-112, and Duane Sutter had a 72-game stint with Florida, going 22-42-8.

While he is on the short end of NHL coaching experience, Brent Sutter was the top NHL point producer of the family:

  GP G A Pts PIM
Brent Sutter 1111 363 466 829 1054
Brian Sutter 779 303 333 636 1786
Darryl Sutter 406 161 118 279 288
Duane Sutter 731 139 203 342 1333
Rich Sutter 874 149 166 315 1411
Ron Sutter 1093 205 329 534 1352










* Where are the rest of them now? Darryl Sutter runs the Calgary Flames . . .  Duane Sutter is Director of Player Development for the Panthers . . . Brian Sutter coaches the Red Deer Rebels . . . Rich Sutter is pro scout for the Phoenix Coyotes . . . Ron Sutter is the Western pro scout for Calgary.

What else is new?

Mike Keenan will coach the Calgary Flames, John Paddock will coach the Ottawa Senators and Claude Julien takes over as coach in Boston.

The New Jersey Devils' new home arena, Prudential Center in Newark, opens Oct. 27 with a game against Ottawa.

Rules Changes

There are four rules changes, effective the start of the 2007-08 season.

Rule 24 -- Gross Misconduct: The term “Gross Misconduct” was eliminated from the rule book. Any act that would have been assessed a Gross Misconduct penalty will receive a Game Misconduct penalty. Accumulated Game Misconduct penalties can lead to fines or suspension.

Rule 25 -- Penalty Shot: A player may be awarded a penalty shot if he is fouled on a clear breakaway outside his defensive zone (i.e., anywhere in the neutral zone or in the attacking zone). Previously, a penalty shot was awarded only when the player on a clear breakaway was fouled on the attacking side of the center line.

Rule 56 -- Interference: Referees were given discretion to assess a major penalty and a game misconduct when an injury results from an act of interference. Previously, only a minor penalty could be assessed for interference.

Rule 76 -- Face-offs: All face-offs must be conducted at one of the nine face-off dots painted on the rink. Previously, there had been instances, such as when a puck left the playing surface, which caused the face-off to occur on unmarked ice, parallel to the dot nearest the place where the puck departed.

Will Lightning Strike For A Rookie?

As highly-touted young prospects around the NHL get set to make their regular-season debut, this year marks the 64th anniversary of Gus Bodnar's League record for the fastest goal by a player in his first game. Bodnar needed just 15 seconds to tally in his career debut, helping the Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the New York Rangers 5-2 on Oct. 30, 1943.

Since 1989-90, three players have tallied a goal less than two minutes into their NHL debut:

Date 
Player  
Score     
Time
Oct. 5, 1989
Alexander Mogilny, Buffalo QUE 3 at BUF 4 0:20
Nov. 8, 2005
Yanick Lehoux, Phoenix
PHX 4 at MIN 2
1:05
Oct. 7, 2006 Mikko Lehtonen, Nashville
NSH 5 at MIN 6
1:41

Can Any Rookies Match Hill?

Philadelphia's Al Hill holds the NHL record for most points by player in his first NHL game, tallying two goals and three assists in a 6-4 victory over St. Louis on Feb. 14, 1977.

Most Points By A Player In His First Game

Date Player Score G-A-Pts
Feb. 14, 1977
Al Hill, Philadelphia STL 4 at PHI 6 2-3-5
Jan. 14, 1943 Alex Smart, Montreal
CHI 1 at MTL 5 3-1-4
Oct. 8, 1953
Dutch Reibel, Detroit NYR 1 at DET 4 0-4-4
Oct. 6, 1976
Roland Eriksson, Minnesota
MIN 5 at NYR 6 4-0-4
Oct. 10, 2002 Stanislav Chistov, Anaheim ANA 4 at STL 3 1-3-4

Here are some recent examples of players who had memorable League debuts:

Players To Score 2+ Goals And/Or 3+ Points In Their First NHL Game (since 2002-03)

Date Player Score G-A-Pts
Oct. 6, 2006 Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles LA 3 at ANA 4 2-0-2
Oct. 5, 2005 Alex Ovechkin, Washington CBJ 2 at WSH 3 2-0-2
Nov. 1, 2003 Dominic Moore, NY Rangers NYR 5 at MTL 1 0-3-3
Mar. 10,2003 Brad DeFauw, Carolina CBJ 5 at CAR 6 2-0-2
Jan. 13, 2003 Michael Rupp, New Jersey FLA 2 at NJ 6
2-0-2
Oct. 10, 2002 Stanislav Chistov, Anaheim ANA 4 at STL 3 1-3-4

Third Time's A Charm

Center Chris Gratton returns to Tampa Bay for his third stint with the Lightning.

Nicklas
Backstrom
Nicklas, meet Niklas


Nicklas Backstrom could face Niklas Backstrom February 26 when the Washington Capitals host the Minnesota Wild at Verizon Center. Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals' fourth overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft is a Swedish center who is expected to make the club after serving his apprenticeship with Brynas IF Gavle. Finnish-born goaltender Niklas Backstrom was a standout for the Wild in 2006-07 and shared the William M. Jennings Trophy (with Manny Fernandez, since traded to Boston) for permitting the fewest goals.
Niklas
Backstrom


Busiest Night Of The Season

The season's busiest night occurs Saturday, Oct. 6, when 14 games are scheduled and 28 teams are in action. The NHL's most historic rivalry resumes at United Center when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings in the 690th all-time meeting of the clubs. Through various quirks of scheduling, no current clubs have faced each other as many times.

October is 'Milestone Month'

Six of hockey's most celebrated veteran players could reach significant milestones within days of the start of the 2007-08 season.

C Mike Modano, Dallas Stars (19th season): Modano enters the season six points behind Phil Housley (1,232) for first place on the all-time points list among U.S.-born players.
Chelios

D Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings (24th season): Chelios needs two games to tie Red Wings legend Alex Delvecchio (1,549) for eighth place on the NHL's all-time games list.

C Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche (19th season): Sakic is one point behind Phil Esposito (1,590) for eighth place on the NHL's all-time points list.

C Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs (17th season): Sundin is one goal shy of Maple Leafs legend Darryl Sitter (389) for first place on the franchise's all-time goals list and seven points away from tying Sittler's all-time points mark (916).

RW Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers (17th season): Jagr is three points behind Paul Coffey (1,531) for 11th place on the all-time points list.

G Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (15th season): Brodeur needs two shutouts to tie 1920s/30s star George Hainsworth (94) for second place on the all-time shutouts list. He also is six wins shy of becoming the second goaltender in NHL history to reach 500, joining Patrick
Hamrlik
Roy (551).

Five players - Roman Hamrlik (15th season), Bryan Smolinski (15th season), Alex Kovalev (15th season), Owen Nolan (16th season) and Mike Sillinger (17th season) - are likely to play their 1,000th games in October. Three of the five (Hamrlik, Smolinski and Kovalev) are teammates on the Montreal Canadiens.

Record Sale Of Single-Game Tickets

A record 250,000 NHL single-game tickets were sold on Sept. 15, the League-wide single-game on-sale date. The figure handily surpassed the 154,000 sold last year and 124,000 in 2005.

NHL fans turned out in record numbers for the 2006-07 regular season, with total attendance of 20,861,787 and a per-game average of 16,961 surpassing the marks set in 2005-06. NHL average attendance increased month by month in 2006-07: 16,537 in October, 16,538 in November, 16,850 in December, 17,075 in January, 17,146 in February, 17,331 in March and 17,749 in April. In all, NHL teams played to 91.7% of capacity.

NHL TECHNOLOGY

NHL Continues To Embrace New Media

The NHL continues to demonstrate its passion for growing the game in the technological age, serving fans' demand for hockey through new media combined with a keen foresight into the new technology our fans will be using. The NHL will begin the 2007-08 season distributing various forms of hockey content through our partnerships with YouTube, Amazon, Yahoo, Sling Media, Apple iTunes, Joost, Akimbo, Cinesport, Voxant, Zip, Verizon Wireless, Bell Mobility, Sympatico, Rogers Wireless and more.

NHL.com Re-Launches With Video-Centric Look

NHL.com is about to re-launch with a fresh new look for the 2007-08 season with added features that make it bolder, richer and easier to navigate. The site will become more video-centric featuring a new video player that will also be available on all 30 club sites. Through this player, fans will be able to navigate easily between live games available on NHL Center Ice Online, behind-the-scenes footage, game highlights and exclusive club content that are viewable in multiple video windows or full screen. With the addition of a real-time scoreboard on the homepage, increased fantasy coverage and more in-depth reporting than ever before, NHL.com is the ultimate destination for hockey fans around the world.

NHL Center Ice And NHL Center Ice Online

NHL Center Ice, the League’s out-of-market subscription package, provides fans the opportunity to watch more than 1,000 NHL live games throughout the regular-season, plus select games from the Stanley Cup Playoffs (all games subject to local blackout). Fans will get a special glimpse at NHL Center Ice through a free preview which will run from Sept. 29 - Oct. 9 in the United States, and from Oct. 3 - Oct. 9 in Canada.

Hockey Information And Tracking System (HITS)

Games will be scored using the new HITS system this season. The program captures additional events, resulting in a more comprehensive statistical game report. The information will be posted in real time on the League website (NHL.com) and media website (media.nhl.com). Printed reports will be available throughout the game.

NHL EVENTS

NHL And Esquire Host Season Launch Party In New York City

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, the National Hockey League and Esquire Magazine will celebrate the start of the 2007-08 season and the 10th anniversary of Hockey Fights Cancer with an all-star bash at Esquire North, a stunning triplex penthouse overlooking New York City’s Central Park. Guests to the event will include NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Esquire Publisher and Vice President Kevin C. O’Malley and a host of NHL players and celebrities. The Stanley Cup will make a special appearance at the event.

NHL Powered By Reebok Store To Open In Manhattan

Reebok and the National Hockey League have teamed up to launch the first-ever “NHL Powered by Reebok" retail destination, which will open in October. Ideally located at 6th Avenue and West 47th Street on the ground floor of the NHL’s new headquarters in New York City, the revolutionary new store features technology, symbolism and authenticity to create an unprecedented shopping experience for players and fans.

Sabres And Penguins To Play Outdoors On New Year's Day

The Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins will make National Hockey League history on New Year’s Day when they play in the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic, the League’s first regular-season outdoor game in the United States. The game will be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills, and will be broadcast on NBC in the U.S. and CBC in Canada. All of the 42,000-plus tickets available for general sale were sold within 30 minutes. Attendance at the contest is expected to surpass the NHL single-game record, set Nov. 22, 2003 when the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers drew 57,167 to The Heritage Classic, played outdoors at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Ralph Wilson Stadium capacity exceeds 73,000.

All-Star Festivities Return To Weekend Format

NHL All-Star festivities return to a weekend format this season as the Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena will host the events of All-Star Weekend Jan. 26-27. NHL All-Star Saturday, including the NHL YoungStars Game and the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills will be followed on Sunday, Jan. 27, by the 56th NHL All-Star Game.

NHL PLAYER PROMOTION

Players Promote Center Ice Broadcasts In New TV Spot

NHL stars Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks, Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames, Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks and Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators are featured in a new national 30-second TV spot promoting NHL Center Ice, the NHL’s out-of-market subscription package, and the HD games available in the package. The ad, which was written, produced and directed by NHL Productions' advertising and marketing group, will run on cable systems' digital information channels and during the NHL Center Ice free previews from Sept. 29 – Oct. 9 in the United States and from Oct. 3 – Oct. 9 in Canada.

NHL COMMUNITY/DIVERSITY

Willie O'Ree 50th Anniversary Celebration

Willie O’Ree’s first National Hockey League game with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens was marked with historic content as he became the first black person to play in the NHL.  January 18, 2008 will mark the 50th anniversary of O’Ree’s debut.  To commemorate his work and recognize this milestone, O’Ree and the NHL will host numerous initiatives throughout the season at both the local and national levels - including events celebrating the diversity of the game and the Hockey is for Everyone initiative.

Hockey Fights Cancer Marks 10th Anniversary

The 2007-08 season marks the 10th anniversary of Hockey Fights Cancer. The NHL and NHLPA will commemorate this milestone with League and team programming throughout the season to help increase funds and awareness for Hockey Fights Cancer.  The League-wide initiative commences in October with “Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month” and will include involvement from all 30 Member Clubs, players, management and fans.

Throughout the month of October the following initiatives will occur:

Each NHL Club will host a Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night to help raise money and awareness of this important cause.

Pink Hockey Fights Cancer Decals on Helmets – In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, all players will wear a pink Hockey Fights Cancer decal on the back left area of the helmet during all regular-season games in the month of October.

Pink Hockey Fights Cancer Ties – Members of the hockey family will wear commemorative pink Hockey Fights Cancer ties at regular-season games in October. NHL coaches will wear ties at team HFC Awareness nights. The ties will be on-sale at www.shop.nhl.com with a portion of the proceeds benefiting HFC.

REFLECTIONS on a Hockey Season Photo Book – The NHL and the NHLPA, together with Getty Images and Greystone Books, have published Reflections on a Hockey Season: The 2007 NHL Year in Photographs.  The first of an annual visual celebration, the book chronicles the highlights and candid, behind-the-scenes images from the 2006-07 NHL season. Dedications from Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Saku Koivu, Phil Kessel and Paul Stewart are included with a portion of the proceeds benefiting HFC.  The book will be available on www.shop.nhl.com, in team stores October 1 and in retail stores October 22. Copies autographed by team captains will be auctioned on www.nhl.com in mid-October.

HFC Pink Ladies Cap Created by New Era – HFC team-specific pink caps will be on-sale at www.shop.nhl.com and select team stores with a portion of the proceeds benefiting HFC.
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