Saturday, February 14, 2015

Consistent game propels Kane to points lead


CHICAGO – Duncan Keith blocked a shot Friday and sent the puck toward the side wall at United Center.


Time was running out on the New Jersey Devils, who frantically pushed for a game-tying goal against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Devils' net was empty at the other end, and the situation called for a two-way player like Marian Hossa or Jonathan Toews to make a stand defensively.


Instead, it was Patrick Kane who made the big play near the corner in the Blackhawks' zone. The high-scoring right wing swiped the puck just before Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas could send it behind the net with 52 seconds left and started a play that led to an empty-net goal.


The assist was Kane's 63rd point, which pushed his lead in the NHL scoring race to three after the games Friday night, but it was also an example of his growth as a player. It wasn't too long ago when Kane would routinely hang out in the neutral zone, circling, and waiting for stretch passes instead of backchecking to retrieve pucks in the defensive zone. It's not that way anymore.


"I knew he was a great player, but you don't know [why] until you get here and get playing with him," said veteran Brad Richards, who centers Kane's second line in his first season with the Blackhawks. "I'm very impressed with his maturity. Sometimes you hear a lot of different things over the years, but [you see] how dedicated he is to the game and how focused he is on the game. He wants to make a difference on every shift. Nothing's ever good enough. He wants more. That's a good sign at that age."


Kane turned 26 in November.


He has hoisted the Stanley Cup twice. He scored a title-clinching goal in overtime of Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy following the Blackhawks' 2013 championship. He's done a lot of great things already, but there's a lot more he could do before leaving this game.


Leading the NHL in points might be one of them.


The Blackhawks will play host to a team Sunday that has a couple of guys who have done that before. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will lead the Pittsburgh Penguins into Chicago for a nationally-televised game, but this time they're both looking up at Kane in the points race. Last season, Kane marveled at how consistently Crosby stacked points en route to his second Art Ross Trophy, seemingly adding to his total every game.


It's tough to catch a guy like that in a points race, and now Kane is becoming the same kind of player.


"I think what you're seeing, he's leading the League in scoring or right around it, he's probably coming into his own and being mature, not taking nights off," Richards said. "He's been real consistent. I don't know if that surprised me, but he obviously is putting up more points than he has most of his career. I think it's just maturity and getting used to playing an 82-game schedule over and over again."


Kris Versteeg, the beneficiary of Kane's hard work against the Devils, put it a different way.


"You can just see the effort levels in all puck areas of the ice," said Versteeg, who also played with Kane when both were just breaking into the NHL. "Whether it's playing more in the defensive zone or coming back for pucks more, picking pucks up … you know, he wanted the puck a lot as a kid, but I mean, he wants the puck 60 minutes of the game now."


He paused before finishing the thought.


"It's pretty remarkable that somebody can have the puck that much and do so much with it," Versteeg said. "There's no one else, really, in the world that can. To see him keep evolving as a player is special and I'm just glad to be a part of it and watch it happen."


Hockey fans can say the same. Kane is putting on quite a show this season.


He's scoring goals (team-high 27). He's setting them up (team-high 36 assists). And, yes, he's also playing defense. His 35 credited takeaways are second only to Hossa on the Blackhawks.



Patrick Kane



Right Wing - CHI


GOALS: 27 | ASST: 36 | PTS: 63

SOG: 169 | +/-: 11



Kane's maturation on the ice has even impressed demanding, defense-oriented coach Joel Quenneville, who was recently asked if he thinks Kane has what it takes to lead the NHL in points for an entire season.

"Absolutely, because he wows you," Quenneville said. "Game in, game out over a long stretch he's been extremely impressive. [He's] dominating single-handedly a lot of nights, getting a lot of our scoring chances or making plays no matter who he's on the ice with."


Kane said it's largely the result of his off-season dedication. He doesn't put his skates on a shelf for a couple months in the summer. Kane works hard in the weight room, but also gets on the ice a lot.


"I try to tell myself and believe that I grow a little bit every year, whether it's offensively or defensively, skating or just strength on the puck," Kane said. "You just try to get better in every area of the game. So, I really believe that working on my game in the summer has helped a lot, skating a lot and trying to work on things. You kind of have a whole year of hockey instead of having so much off time, and that's really helped me."


Blocking out the points race helps too. He's still aware of his points and where he ranks, but it's not an obsession to finish first any longer.


"Pretty much anyone you play with in this lineup is a treat to play with, and you're lucky to be on their line," Kane said. "I'm having fun with that, and I'm trying not to think about points too much. I think that's where you kind of get in trouble. If you think about playing well and creating chances, those things will come along eventually. I'm better off when I just worry about playing well."


So far, so good.



Canadiens' Plekanec flies under radar as two-way star


MONTREAL -- When Tomas Plekanec arrived in North America, he knew exactly what kind of player he was.


The Montreal Canadiens didn't agree.


A third-round selection (No. 71) in the 2001 NHL Draft, Plekanec joined the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League in 2002 with an identity that was clear in his mind.


"When I got there I was a very offensive guy," Plekanec said this week. "Actually, I didn't know anything about defense. I played from the red line to the opposition's goal line."


Now here he is nearly 13 years later, one of the NHL's best two-way forwards and a pillar of the Canadiens, who enter their game Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US; CBC; TVA) trying to finish with the top record in the Eastern Conference.


Though goaltender Carey Price, defenseman P.K. Subban and forward Max Pacioretty receive most of the credit for the Canadiens' success, Plekanec quietly goes about his business facing top opposing forwards and producing offensively on a consistent basis.


It is a role the Canadiens have groomed Plekanec to play from the moment he stepped off the plane from his native Czech Republic to begin his professional career in North America.


"I've been put in that situation. It's not like I chose it," Plekanec said. "Two things they taught me right off the bat when I got here was being good on both sides of the ice, and being consistent. Those are the two biggest things I learned, the two things I heard from the coaches. So I was a guy trying to listen to the coach."


The first two men to drive home that message to Plekanec in Hamilton were current Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien and assistant Doug Jarvis, who took over as coach of the Bulldogs after Julien was promoted to the Canadiens during Plekanec's rookie season in the AHL. Julien and Jarvis are coaches who take defensive responsibility seriously, to put it mildly, and Plekanec quickly got the message.


Plekanec spent three years in the AHL to become the player he is today, but his third season in Hamilton was difficult. He was ready by then to play in the NHL, but the 2004 lockout forced him to stay in the minors and he said he briefly considered leaving to play in Europe that year.


"But I didn't, and I think it was the biggest decision of my career," he said. "That third year helped me."


Once Plekanec made the NHL in 2005 he decided he'd had enough of the minor-league lifestyle and never went back, aside from a two-game conditioning stint during his rookie season.


He did so using the lessons he learned from Julien and Jarvis.


Today, Plekanec plays the same role for the Canadiens as Patrice Bergeron plays for the Bruins, and though most people would laugh off that comparison, they are in fact very similar players.


In 733 NHL games, Plekanec has 192 goals and 476 points. In 712 games, Bergeron has 198 goals and 531 points.


Bergeron is widely regarded as the best penalty-killing forward in the NHL, with good reason. According to war-on-ice.com, there are 32 forwards in the League who have played at least 450 minutes shorthanded since the start of the 2011-12 season. Among that group, Bergeron has been on the ice for the fewest goals against, a rate of 5.0 per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time. Second on the list is Plekanec, at 5.1 goals against per 60 minutes.


"What makes [Plekanec] so effective is he's so smart," Price said. "He thinks the game very well. He reads and reacts so well. To be a defensive player like that, and even to be a good offensive player, you need to have that instinct."


The one area where Bergeron clearly surpasses Plekanec is possession metrics, with Bergeron consistently among the best in the NHL while Plekanec is usually near the middle of the pack. There is a caveat to that, and that's the lack of stability Plekanec has had in Montreal over the years, with a revolving door of forwards playing with him every season.


Tomas Plekanec arrived in North America as a one-dimensional player, but has developed into one of the NHL's best two-way forwards with the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI)


Since the beginning of that same 2011-12 season, Plekanec has played at least 100 minutes at 5-on-5 with 17 forwards, according to hockeyanalysis.com. His most frequent linemate over that span, Brian Gionta, is now captain of the Buffalo Sabres.


Told of the number of different forwards he's played with, Plekanec laughed and said, "Compare it to some other guys."


Well, OK.


Over the same span, Bergeron has played at least 100 even-strength minutes with seven forwards, 10 fewer than Plekanec, and his most frequent linemate remains on his wing today, Brad Marchand.


This season, Plekanec has been playing the past month with two third-year, offensive players, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. Much like Plekanec learned the defensive side of the game in Hamilton from Julien and Jarvis, Plekanec is teaching Gallagher and Galchenyuk the same thing by playing with them now.


"He's very efficient on the ice and he barely ever makes a mistake," Gallagher said. "He's always in the right position defensively. You've just got to make the right, smart play that's not going to be too flashy all the time, but I think that's how you have success in this League. I think anyone who year after year can put up numbers and play against top players like he does, that's pretty impressive. For guys like me and [Galchenyuk] playing with him, we can learn a lot from him."


Plekanec has been such an important player on one of the most popular hockey teams in the world for so long, it's hard to believe how little is known about him. But that's exactly how Plekanec wants it.


He doesn't do many interviews and remains a private person, often leaving the Canadiens practice facility as quickly as he can so he can go home to his wife and their 3-year old son, said his Czech countryman and rookie teammate Jiri Sekac, who Plekanec has helped to adapt to life in Montreal this season.


If you ask any of his teammates what Plekanec is like, the word professional is invariably one of the first they use because that's his persona around the rink. It's business, and Plekanec has gone about it on an incredibly consistent basis.


Since the start of his second season with the Canadiens in 2006-07, Plekanec has missed a total of 12 games and failed to score 20 goals in a full season once. He has 16 this season, and the 16th was a special one, putting him past his former captain Saku Koivu into 27th place on the Canadiens' all-time list.


If there is a player who is the polar opposite of Plekanec on the adulation spectrum in Montreal and beyond it would be Koivu, and Plekanec is somewhat embarrassed to talk about passing him on the list.


"He had a lot of injuries and a lot of things," Plekanec said. "He was a star player. I wouldn't compare myself with Saku. If I passed him in goals, it's a matter of playing here that long and having more games than he had here. Other than that, I wouldn't even go there."


Plekanec has played 59 fewer games than Koivu for the Canadiens, but the point remains valid. Plekanec has played in Montreal for a long time, and he has been a very good player for nearly as long, even if many people don't know it.


Not bad for someone who once considered going back to play in Europe because he thought he would be stuck in the minors forever.


"It's something I never, ever expected myself to get to and it's something I'm really proud of," Plekanec said, staring at the Canadiens logo on the floor of the dressing room. "Putting the stats aside, to play that long for the Montreal Canadiens is something I never would have dreamed of. A lot of times I go back to the minors when I was in Hamilton, and I didn't expect that, to be here that long when I was going through those questions."


After all this time, Plekanec is still going strong. Maybe one day more people will start to notice.



Rangers coach Vigneault on verge of 500th win


Alain Vigneault stepped behind the Montreal Canadiens bench on Oct. 1, 1997 feeling ready, if a bit green. He was 36 years old, the second youngest coach in Canadiens history behind Claude Ruel.


Vigneault was coaching his first NHL game.


"I was a little French Quebecer getting an opportunity to coach the team from his province," Vigneault told NHL.com on Friday. "I knew the history that was there with the Habs, so I just felt so honored and privileged."


The Canadiens tied the Ottawa Senators 2-2 in Vigneault's NHL coaching debut. They defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 three nights later to give him his first win.


On Saturday, Vigneault can become the 21st coach in NHL history to win 500 games, when his New York Rangers play the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Casino (8 p.m. ET; FS-A, MSG).


The self-proclaimed little French Quebecer is one win away from tying Montreal coach and Hockey Hall of Fame member Toe Blake for 20th place on the NHL wins list. Vigneault is two wins shy of tying Pat Burns, another former Canadiens coach and Hockey Hall of Fame member, for 19th place.


Vigneault is 499-335-35-72 in 941 games coached.


"I do understand that 500 is a lot of wins and I've been very fortunate to have coached some real good players, have had some real great assistants working with me, and I've always had support of management," said Vigneault, in his second season with New York.


"So to get to 500 wins, I mean there's not a lot of these jobs out there. When I started there were only 26 of these jobs, now there is 30. I obviously feel very privileged to be one of the 30."


Vigneault got his chance to be a coach in the NHL in 1997 because he impressed former Canadiens general manager Rejean Houle with his preparedness and composure. Vigneault had been a coach for 11 years, including in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and almost four seasons as an assistant with the Senators, by the time he got the job with the Canadiens.


"You could see there was something there with him, that he knew what was going on," Houle said. "He had the feeling for the game and knew the game well. He was a very intelligent person and he knew exactly what to do and how to approach the players. He was a young coach, but he was a very mature person and you could feel that right away."


Rick Bowness felt the same way when he interviewed Vigneault to be his assistant with the expansion Senators in 1992. Vigneault was 31.


"Ten to 15 minutes into the interview I knew I was going to offer him the job and was hoping he would take it," Bowness said. "I knew then he would be a head coach. We played with some of the same guys, and the background checks I did with them, they all said, 'You're going to love this guy, he's a lot like you.' You could sense how serious he was and the passion he had for the game. It just jumps out at you."


Bowness watched as Vigneault learned how to deal with the NHL player, which is much different for a coach coming from working with junior players.


But what truly impressed Bowness was how Vigneault responded to being fired by the Canadiens 20 games into the 2000-01 season. He took some time off and then went back to coaching junior hockey before getting hired by the Vancouver Canucks to coach their American Hockey League affiliate in Winnipeg.


It took Vigneault six years to get another coaching job in the NHL.


"When you're the coach of the Montreal Canadiens, man, you're the king of the province," Bowness said. "But to go back to junior hockey, back to the minors and do what he did to get back to this level just speaks volumes for his passion for the game."


Bowness saw Vigneault's maturity firsthand when he went to work with him in Vancouver in 2006. It was evident in how Vigneault kept his emotion to the side and analyzed the game for what he was seeing, not feeling.


"The worst thing a coach can do is think with his heart," Bowness said. "Alain thinks with his head and he stays one step ahead of everything."


Vigneault has had success -- two trips to the Stanley Cup Final, including last season with the Rangers, and two Presidents' Trophies with the Canucks -- in part because of the respect he has from his players. He's not light on them, but he doesn't ride them to the point where they resent him.


"As long as you worked hard with [Alain] you would get a chance to play," said Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows, who had Vigneault as a coach in the American Hockey League and in Vancouver. "Guys could talk to him and not feel too nervous."


Burrows said he could always tell when Vigneault was unhappy; it was when he didn't come into the dressing room after a game or a practice.


"One thing I learned if I ever coach is that's maybe one thing I'll do," Burrows said. "If I really get angry, you just don't come in, and the next day it's probably better if you thought about things and can teach instead of yelling and screaming."


Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said he can count on one hand the times he remembers Vigneault losing his cool during his seven seasons in Vancouver.


"He was good to the players and that's what counts," Sedin said.


Vigneault hasn't changed in New York. When asked, his players repeatedly talk about the respect he has for them and they have for him. Not once has a Rangers player even hinted at the idea that they weren't prepared for a game.


"His pre-scout and getting the team ready, X's and O's, is the best I have seen," Sedin said.


It helps that Vigneault coaches a system that is player-friendly. His teams thrive on speed and moving the puck quickly, generating a lot of quality offensive chances, and pressuring the puck relentlessly.


The Rangers are fourth in the NHL in scoring with 161 goals in 53 games. The Canucks finished in the top five in scoring in three of his seven seasons, including first in 2010-11 and second in 2009-10. The Canadiens were fifth in scoring in 1997-98.


Vigneault's teams have scored 2.75 goals per game in his 941 games.


"I believe that there's one way to play and that's the right way," Vigneault said. "Most coaches that have success in the NHL they all believe in their way of coaching and philosophy in playing, and at the end of the day I believe what myself and my assistants are trying to do is right."


How can anyone say he's doing it wrong? Vigneault is one win away from being the 21st member of an exclusive club.


"Five hundred wins, it's an amazing accomplishment," Bowness said. "He's been to the Final twice, he's going to take that team there again."


NHL.com correspondent Kevin Woodley contributed to this report.


---



Penguins' Crosby already ranks among game's greats


Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby still has more than half of his career in front of him, and there's a growing consensus he's already a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame.


"I'd have put him in the Hall of Fame last night," NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes said.


Mike Rupp, Crosby's former teammate, also said he'd vote Crosby into the Hockey Hall of Fame if Crosby never played another game. Former NHL goalie and longtime television analyst Darren Pang said the same thing. So did NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk, who was Crosby's first NHL coach.


"No doubt," Pang said. "There isn't even any hesitation on my behalf."


"I would for sure, because of the personal history," said Olczyk, who will call the NBC Game of the Week on Sunday between the Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks at United Center (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, City).


Olczyk said the only blemish he can find on Crosby's resume is the disappointing finishes the Penguins have had since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009. Crosby has been the face of some of that disappointment in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, particularly last season when he had one goal and nine points in 13 games while playing with a bad wrist.


"You can blame the coaches all you want, but it always falls on the shoulders of the best players," Olczyk said. "With the teams they've had, obviously it's disappointing to say the least that they haven't been able to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.


"But I just think knowing what he did for the franchise, what he's done for the League, what he's done in the Olympics, very few players can have the impact both on and off the ice that he's had."


At this point you might be asking yourself, "Why is it relevant to talk about Crosby and the Hall of Fame?" You might even be saying, "Yeah, we already knew Crosby was great; what's your point?"


Consider the milestone Crosby reached last week. It's the hard-data proof why he already is being called an all-time great by people who have decades of experience.


Crosby finished his 600th NHL game Wednesday with 825 points, ninth all-time for players through their first 600 games. The eight players ahead of Crosby are in the Hockey Hall of Fame: Wayne Gretzky (1,451 points), Mario Lemieux (1,215), Mike Bossy (921), Peter Stastny (901), Bobby Orr (864), Jari Kurri (848), Bryan Trottier (830), and Denis Savard (827).


Crosby scored two goals Thursday in a 5-4 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators. He has 827 points, which is tied for 135th all-time, 15th among active players. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider where Crosby ranks in games played.


Entering playing Friday, he was tied for 160th among active players in games played and is tied for No. 1,097 on the all-time games played list. All of that makes Crosby fifth in points per game at 1.376. The four players ahead of him are Gretzky (1.921), Lemieux (1.883), Bossy (1.497) and Orr (1.393).


Crosby's teammate, Evgeni Malkin, is next closest on the active list at 1.206. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is at 1.180. New Jersey Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr, a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame and the fifth leading scorer in League history, is at 1.171.


"Think of those games played, and that points-per-game is a huge stat," Rupp said. "That's impressive to me, even more than the point total whenever Sid will be done. That's what he on average contributes to his team each game."


Rupp said it's even more impressive when you consider that Crosby never has played regularly with a forward considered one of the elite scorers in the NHL.


Crosby's most common linemates in recent seasons have been Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. He's added David Perron this season.


Kunitz averaged 0.609 points per game in 315 games before coming to the Penguins; he has averaged 0.803 in 391 games with Pittsburgh. Dupuis averaged 0.386 points per game in 419 games before coming to the Penguins; he has averaged 0.559 in 434 games with Pittsburgh.


Perron is averaging 0.764 points per game in 17 games with the Penguins, all on Crosby's right wing. He averaged 0.600 points per game in his first 456 games with the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers.


"You have a guy that is almost like a Tom Brady in hockey, surrounded by good players but not players of his caliber and he's making them that much better," Rupp said. "Tom Brady wins Super Bowls without star receivers and without a great running game. Sid is that good that he can make all of these players better and still get the points he's getting."


Olczyk estimated Crosby would have as many as 20 more points per season if he had a premier goal-scorer on his wing.


"He's going to set that guy up and that guy is going to score when other guys can't," Olczyk said. "You could probably add in another 120 or so [career] points if he had a guy who could really be a threat offensively when it comes to goal-scoring."


The questions now with Crosby are what more he can do, how much longer he can do it, and where will he rank when he's done?



Sidney Crosby



Center - PIT


GOALS: 19 | ASST: 39 | PTS: 58

SOG: 157 | +/-: 9



"Everybody is careful about all-time rank because he's not even close to being at the end of his career yet," Pang said. "But the fact of the matter is Sidney Crosby can define a game with one move just like all the great players that have played the game could do. When you look at the game, the way it's played now, the way the preparation is now with the video, the systems, the size of the equipment, the ability of the goaltenders, the numbers and the way he plays the game, shows that in the end he will rank in that top echelon of all-time greats."

For Crosby to get into the top five he'll need close to 1,000 more points. Jagr is fifth right with 1,784 and he's still playing. Jagr likely will pass Ron Francis, who is fourth with 1,798.


Ovechkin is the only player ahead of Crosby on the active scoring-leaders list who is younger than 30. Ovechkin, 29, has 866 points in 734 games.


"I don't know if he's going to be able to play that long [to crack the top five]," Weekes said. "I know he does everything in his power to play that long, the way he lives, the way he prepares, his attention to details, his work ethic. All of that stuff he controls the best that he can so he's giving himself the best chance he can to play a long time. But that's a lot of hockey, a lot of hard hockey, plus Team Canada commitments. I don't know. We'll see. I'm hoping he can."


Olczyk said he thinks Crosby, 27, can play another 1,000 games if he stays healthy. That would mean he'd have to finish this season and play another 12, putting him just shy of his 40th birthday when he hits 1,600 games.


Crosby has missed 158 games with injuries, but most of that is a result of concussions, not muscle or joint injuries that eventually wear down a body. If anything, missing that much time early in his career might make Crosby fresher later, sort of the way it has worked for Jagr after his three seasons in Russia.


"Is he on the 10 tee box or is he just walking up the eighth or ninth fairway?" Olczyk said. "With the conditioning and the way he skates you'd think he'd be able to play another 12 years just because he can skate so well and he's never going to lose his distribution abilities. It's certainly food for thought."


But that's not the point. Crosby already has defined his greatness with his production and his accolades.


He has won the Stanley Cup, two Olympic gold medals, and a gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship. He has won the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy twice each, and likely would have had them each two more times if not for injuries. He is four points off the NHL scoring lead this season.


"The numbers at the end, we'll all sit back and determine where he's at," Pang said. "But there's no denying that he's going to be one of the great players in the history of our game."


He already is. That's the point. The numbers don't lie.


"It's important that people recognize greatness," Weekes said. "Don't wait until after. In Sid's case, if you're not a Pens fan, so many people rag on him. I don't know what else you want him to do. He's a Hall of Famer in my book."


---



Friday, February 13, 2015

Tortorella felt firing by Canucks was justified: report


John Tortorella believes he deserved to be fired as coach after one season with the Vancouver Canucks.


During an interview Friday with WDAE 620 AM in Tampa, Tortorella said poor play in the second half of the season is what led to the end of his time with the Canucks.


"We had a great first half but I don't think I did the job for the team the second half, with our consistency," he told the radio station. "And I think that's what cost me my job. We just … we couldn't stop the losing streaks. We needed to win a couple of games within those areas.


"And quite honestly, I deserved to get fired after that second half of the year."


The root of Tortorella's problems in Vancouver could be traced to a game against the Calgary Flames on Jan. 18, 2014, which saw a line brawl off the opening faceoff and then Tortorella trying to get into the Flames locker room to confront coach Bob Hartley after the first period ended.


The NHL suspended Tortorella for 15 days for the incident. The Canucks, who were 24-16-9 and holding the first Western Conference wild-card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, went 12-19-2 the rest of the way and finished eight points out of a playoff spot. Tortorella was fired May 1, 2014.


"I know I make my own bed in some of these different things that's happened," Tortorella said. "You're talking to a guy that went down the hallway after another coach last year, which was so, so across the line and so embarrassing to my organization and my team."


Among the things Tortorella is doing with his time off is helping the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate Hockey Day in Tampa Bay on Feb. 15 at Amalie Arena. Tortorella coached the Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup.


Tortorella will coach one side in the Lightning Conference All-Star Game, which features the best area high school hockey players. Coaching the other team will be Dave Andreychuk, the captain of the Lighting's championship team who works as the Lightning's vice president of corporate and community affairs.


"I am there to win there, that's for sure," Tortorella told the Lightning website. "I am sure [Andreychuk] is too. I just want to help out in any way. Once you start playing, once you get into the competition, I'm sure everybody on the benches on either team is going to try to win. As long as we know what it's about, it's about two great charities that are going to raise a lot of money."


Tortorella also will help coach both sides in the Battle of the Badges game between a team of area fire fighters and a team of area police officers.


"Everybody, when they talk about the team, the players or the sport, they put those people on a pedestal," Tortorella said. "I think the real stuff happens with the firemen and the policemen. Those are the real people. That's who we should be putting on a pedestal. Whatever support we can show them, I'm happy to do it."


Tortorella, who has a house in the Tampa area, said he has enjoyed watching the Lightning this season but hasn't been to Amalie Arena too often.


"It's a little bit difficult for me," he said. "I feel funny going there. That's not my team. I just don't feel comfortable being around that much because it isn't my squad. I don't want to get in the way. I've been here a couple months and watching them, and, boy, are they an exciting team to watch."



Seguin, Voracek join 'Saul' as popular spin-offs


According to Wikipedia, a television spin-off is defined as, "a new series which contains either characters, a different character or theme elements from a previous series."


AMC's "Breaking Bad" was considered one of the better television shows of this generation. It won countless awards during its five seasons from 2008 to 2013. This past Sunday, AMC released a spin-off from the critically acclaimed "Breaking Bad" called "Better Call Saul." Not every television spin-off is successful and clearly, the verdict is still out on "Better Call Saul" (only two episodes have aired).


But throughout television history, we've seen tons of spin-offs. Some turned out to be effective, like the hit show "Frasier," which was a spin-off from "Cheers," and "The Jeffersons," which was a spin-off from "All in the Family." And then there were also some misses, like "Joey," which was a spin-off from "Friends," and "Joanie Loves Chachi," which of course was a spin-off from "Happy Days."


I'm not here to ramble on about TV, though. I'm here to discuss the best and worst fantasy hockey spin-offs in recent years. I'm talking about players that once had a small role on one team, and then joined another team for a larger, more prominent, leading-type role, if you will.


And just like with the television industry, we've seen some hits and some misses. Here are five of the most and least successful fantasy hockey spin-offs in the past five years (feel free to add some of your favorite fantasy hockey spin-offs in the comments section below):


THE HITS


Tyler Seguin -- Boston Bruins ---> Dallas Stars



Tyler Seguin



Tyler Seguin


Center - DAL


GOALS: 29 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 59

SOG: 224 | +/-: 0



Seguin was selected second overall in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Bruins. He had plenty of hype around him. He racked up 56 goals and 121 points in 203 games with them from 2010-2013. But since joining the Stars after a trade, he's become one of the best fantasy players in the game. He has 66 goals and 143 points in 134 games and currently ranks as the third best fantasy player in Yahoo leagues. From a prospect in Boston to a pure superstar with the Stars, Seguin has run away with his lead role in this spin-off.


Jakub Voracek -- Columbus Blue Jackets ---> Philadelphia Flyers


Like Seguin, Voracek was a highly touted prospect selected seventh overall in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Blue Jackets. And he was a solid player for Columbus in his first three NHL seasons. He was then traded to the Flyers with expectations of developing into a star. Fast forward to his second season with Philadelphia and you could see Voracek was following the script. He finished with 46 points in 48 games during the shortened season. And now in 2014-15, he is officially a superstar, ranking as the No. 2 player in Yahoo fantasy leagues. This spin-off has paid off for the Flyers and for fantasy owners.


Ben Bishop -- St. Louis Blues /Ottawa Senators ---> Tampa Bay Lightning


Bishop had high expectations with the Senators organization from 2011 through 2013. And in his 13 games for Ottawa during the 2012-13 season you could see something begin to develop (.922 save percentage and 2.45 goals against average). During that season, the Senators opted to trade Bishop to the Lightning where he was expected to eventually take over as the team's No. 1 goalie. And that's exactly what's happened in his three seasons with Tampa Bay. Bishop was one of the best fantasy goalies in the league in 2013-14, and while he hasn't been quite as good this season, he still sports a solid 2.47 goals against average and .910 save percentage with 27 wins.


Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd -- Chicago Blackhawks ---> Winnipeg Jets



Dustin Byfuglien



Dustin Byfuglien


Defense - WPG


GOALS: 14 | ASST: 24 | PTS: 38

SOG: 172 | +/-: 9



Byfuglien and Ladd were fresh off of winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, but everyone knew Chicago was going to have make some trades because of their salary cap restraints. Enter the Atlanta/Winnipeg organization. They jumped on the opportunity to add Byfuglien via trade and then days later made another trade to acquire Ladd. Both players were primarily considered role players for Chicago, but now look at how they've progressed in their lead roles for Winnipeg. Ladd is the captain of the team and hasn't scored fewer than 45 points in any of his five seasons with the organization. Byfuglien has shifted positions and has become one of the most reliable fantasy defenseman in the game, and ranks as the No. 1 blue-liner in Yahoo leagues this season. This spin-off duo has been as successful as you could have imagined.


Nick Foligno -- Ottawa Senators ---> Columbus Blue Jackets


Foligno's spin-off success has taken a little bit of time. He started out with the Senators and recorded 148 points in 351 games over his first five NHL seasons. In the summer of 2012, Foligno was traded to the Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Marc Methot. Foligno's first season with Columbus didn't go according to script. He posted 19 points in 45 games. His second season was slightly better as he totaled 18 goals and 39 points in 70 games. But this season, his third since being traded, things have clicked. He has 50 points in 51 games, was named a captain in his first All-Star appearance, and ranks as the No. 24 player in Yahoo fantasy leagues. Welcome to an official leading role, Nick.


Honorable mentions: Wayne Simmonds, Brian Elliott, Blake Wheeler


THE MISSES


Alexander Semin -- Washington Capitals ---> Carolina Hurricanes


Alexander Semin, who has 11 points in 31 games and has been a healthy scratch a number of times this season, just hasn't been the same player since joining the Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo: Getty Images)


Granted his first season with the Hurricanes was fantastic (44 points in 44 games), things have completely fallen apart over the past two seasons after signing a massive deal with Carolina. Semin's high-point with the Capitals was when he scored 40 goals and 84 points in 2009-10 and this season, he has two goals and 11 points in 31 games after posting 42 points in 65 games in 2013-14. He was expected to be a dominant goal scorer alongside Eric Staal, but this spin-off just hasn't panned out.


Brian Campbell -- Buffalo Sabres /San Jose Sharks /Chicago Blackhawks ---> Florida Panthers


In four seasons from 2005 through 2009 while playing for the Sabres, Sharks and Blackhawks, Campbell averaged 0.63 points-per-game in 326 games. In his four seasons for the Panthers since 2011, Campbell has averaged 0.51 points-per-game in 265 games. If you take away his 53-point season in his first year with Florida in 2011-12, he has averaged 0.44 points-per-game in 183 games. He never quite lived up to fantasy expectations since joining the Panthers.


Ilya Bryzgalov -- Arizona Coyotes ---> Philadelphia Flyers /Edmonton Oilers /Minnesota Wild /Anaheim Ducks


Bryzgalov developed into one of the more reliable goalies in the NHL in his four seasons with the Coyotes from 2007 through 2011. He had a save percentage higher than .920 in three of those four seasons. But in June of 2011, he signed a massive contract with the Flyers and things were never the same. In his next four seasons spanning 139 games with the Flyers, Oilers, Wild and back with the Ducks, Bryzgalov never finished with a save percentage higher than .911. Maybe it was the defensive-minded system with the Coyotes, or maybe it was the larger media presence in Philadelphia. Either way, Bryzgalov never was able to run away with the lead role when he left the Coyotes.


David Clarkson -- New Jersey Devils ---> Toronto Maple Leafs


In the latter years of his Devils tenure that lasted 426 games, Clarkson slowly developed into a really valuable fantasy player capable of scoring a decent amount of goals while racking up loads of penalty minutes. In two seasons since joining the Maple Leafs, Clarkson has 26 points in 114 games and has become fantasy irrelevant (his ownership stands at 3 percent currently). This spin-off who was supposed to be a vital player for a Maple Leafs organization has been a complete failure to this point.


Martin St. Louis -- Tampa Bay Lightning ---> New York Rangers


St. Louis didn't exactly have a small role for the Lightning (he racked up 953 points in 972 games for them), but he did come to New York in a big trade with high expectations. And for the most part, he's disappointed, in the regular season anyway (which is all that counts in fantasy hockey). After being a point-per-game player for the better part of his Tampa Bay career, St. Louis has 45 points in 72 regular season games with the Rangers (0.63 points per game). It was a nice attempt at a spin-off under the bright lights in New York, but it hasn't exactly worked out for fantasy owners.


Dishonorable mentions: Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Moulson, Ryane Clowe


---



Martinook set to go after second recall by Coyotes


Jordan Martinook usually leaves his practices with the Portland Pirates in a car, homeward bound.


On Wednesday, all was about to go according to plan until coach Ray Edwards shook it up. Martinook was going to go home, sure, but only to pack. He was headed to the airport, booked on the next flight out to Glendale, Ariz.


In his third year with the American Hockey League affiliate for the Arizona Coyotes, the 22-year-old native of Brandon, Manitoba had already made his NHL debut on Dec. 6, playing in two games at Gila River Arena before boarding a plane back to Portland.


"It’s pretty surreal. You dream of that moment your entire life. It took me a couple years to get that call," Martinook, a center, said of his first experience. "It’s something you can’t even really describe in words how much it means to you."


His first NHL game, a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, saw Martinook get 11:56 of ice time in front of a crowd with some familiar faces sitting in the stands.


"I had a lot of family there, and they all came down to the glass for warm-ups," he said. "Everybody had a big smile on their face when I was wheeling around and that's when it kind of sunk in, like 'Holy smokes, it's here and I better gear up.' I was pretty nervous, for sure."


Martinook spent two years with the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants prior to becoming a second-round pick (No. 58) by the Coyotes in the 2012 NHL Draft. Just over halfway through the 2014-15 season, he has recorded 11 goals and 28 points in 44 games with Portland, on pace to set new career-highs in both categories. His 17 assists are already one better than the 16 he registered last season in 67 games.


He has been skating primarily with fellow 2012 Coyotes draftee Henrik Samuelsson (No. 27) and Alexandre Bolduc, a first-line trio that has benefited Martinook well, earning him more time on the power play as well as the continuing respect and trust from Edwards and the Portland coaching staff.


"The work that he put in in the summer time was second to none. He found a way to add a step to his speed," Edwards said. "His whole mindset coming in was businesslike in the sense that it was going to be a big year for him and he needed get some stuff done. He's not only played really well -- he's a 200-foot player -- but his maturity level has really impressed me."


Martinook's 28 points place him second in Pirates scoring, two behind Bolduc. He leads the team with 112 shots on goal, and has put together three separate point streaks of three-or-more games this season, along with six multipoint games.


Edwards notes Martinook's speed and penalty-killing prowess, and his team- and league-leading four shorthanded points have helped guide the Pirates to a PK that is currently fourth in the AHL, succeeding at an 87.2-percent clip.


Being a third-year player has visibly helped Martinook's game and off-ice mentality, but it has also given him the chance to pay it forward and he jumped at the opportunity to be a mentor to players coming in who still are learning the ropes.


"We have a lot of first-year guys, and guys that haven't been around the league that much. We've got a good group that has been here for a few years together," he said. "I've definitely taken on some leadership roles this year. It's been translating over into my game as well, trying to lead by example both on and off the ice."


Martinook will play his third game with the Coyotes on Friday as they host the San Jose Sharks, looking to continue proving to the Arizona brass he has what it takes.


"You have to go do what you've had success doing at the AHL level. Marty's a high energy guy," Edwards said. "He has to go up there and do that and use his speed, and use his physicality and size and strength to his advantage, and he's gotta have an impact."


The future is favorable for the young forward, and the newly focused mentality Edwards saw at the beginning of the season hasn't waned. At 22, he still has a lot of hockey in front of him, but the path to the NHL has become just a little less crowded.


"As soon as you get a taste of it and you get sent back down, you're always trying to get back up there," Martinook said. "Getting told I was going back [on Wednesday] is definitely something you like to hear. I'm just going to try and make the most of this opportunity and hope I can stick around for more than a few games this time."


For more news, scores, and stats from around the American Hockey League, visit theahl.com .



Super 16: Bet on Kane could pay off big for Sabres


Too often the focus on a young player in the NHL is about what he doesn't do well or facets of his game or personality that may be a product of being a young player.


When Alex Ovechkin entered the League, he reached levels of performance no hockey player has since before a combination of goaltending equipment and instruction and evolution of defensive systems and video technology made suppressing offense easier for even bad teams.


Yet there was always a but. Sure, he's the most gifted goal scorer of his generation, but questions about his defensive play and ultimately the failures of the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs were pinned on him.


Patrick Kane, Carey Price, P.K. Subban; going back further it was players like Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux who had their overall game questioned before they matured into fully-formed superstar talents. And maturity for many of these players mentioned was a big part of the criticism.


This leads to a discussion about Evander Kane, who was the focus of one of the most fascinating trades in the NHL in years Wednesday. If the first-round pick is counted, six assets who have yet to turn 25 years old and a seventh who has been 25 for 12 days changed franchises. The team in "buying" mode added three of the four prospects (again, counting the pick as a prospect), and the team in "selling" mode may very well have added the two best players.


Kane is 23 years old, and depending on someone's particularly heated opinion, either a misunderstood superstar in waiting or a potentially poisonous influence in the dressing room with forever untapped on-ice potential. He might also just be a really good player who was forced to grow up in the NHL, so his bouts of immaturity were exposed on a grand stage.


Buffalo general manager Tim Murray was willing to bet on Kane's issues either being a product of his age or his environment or overstated, or any combination of the three, really. If he's right, the Sabres may have just landed one of the game's top young power forwards as he enters the prime of his career.


"It wasn't all unicorns and rainbows and Jujubes," Murray said of Kane's time in Winnipeg. "Players have warts. The best players have warts. I can tell you the best of the very best players have warts. But I can't talk about them. It's just what it is in the past."


Kane has proven he is one of the best shot generators in the League. This was his worst season for the Winnipeg Jets in that department, and he still averaged 3.41 shots on goal per game.



Super16 Shooting Star?



























































































Player3.2 S/G seasons^Age 18-23 goalsAge 24-29 goals
Dale Hawerchuk6268181
Wayne Gretzky5356321
EVANDER KANE* 5 109 ???
Bobby Orr5152118
Steven Stamkos*523328
Pavel Bure4174210
Sidney Crosby*418576
Marcel Dionne4139299
Mario Lemieux4300194
Rick Martin4185198
Alex Ovechkin*4219236
Geoff Sanderson4153113
*Active
^Prior to age-24 season


This is the fifth season Kane has averaged more than 3.2 shots per game of his six in the NHL. Check out the accompanying table for some historical perspective on players who generated shots at that level of consistency by their age-23 season.


There are four other players (dating back as far in NHL history as shots on goal have officially been tallied, which is the start of the 1967-68 season) who have five seasons with at least 3.2 shots on goal per game by Kane's age, and 12 who have at least four seasons.


That is pretty accomplished company to be part of. That's six Hockey Hall of Fame members, the three best offensive players to enter the NHL in the past decade (Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos) and two other guys (Rick Martin and Geoff Sanderson) who each had at least three 30-goal seasons after turning 24 years old.


Kane has one 30-goal season to this point, and only one 20-goal campaign as well (though he was likely to approach 30 goals if 2012-13 had been a full season and 25 goals if he had not missed 19 games last season).


If Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff felt the situation with Kane was beyond repair, he did manage a pretty solid return. The difference between Tyler Myers and Zach Bogosian could ultimately tip in Buffalo's favor, or be rather negligible. Drew Stafford can help without any commitment beyond this season.


Adding two strong prospects (Joel Armia, especially) and a first-round pick in a strong draft could give Cheveldayoff more ammunition later this month or near the draft in June to further improve a young club that is trending upward.


Next season Kane will have a repaired shoulder and plenty of motivation to prove those who doubt him wrong. He will also be a year older, and some combination of those factors could help him flourish in Buffalo.


If he does, Kane will be the latest NHL player who probably just needed time to mature. Not every immature young talent works out, but players with Kane's ability are more often than not worth the wait.


For this version of the Super 16, let's look at the potential needs for Kane's old team and the 15 others who could all be interested in making a trade of some kind in the coming weeks.


DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night.


1. Chicago Blackhawks (33-18-4)


HELP WANTED: If Trevor van Riemsdyk is ready for Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series, then what the Blackhawks need is reasonably good health and they will be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, whether they finish first in the Central Division or third. Problem is, the Blackhawks might not know for sure on van Riemsdyk until well past the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 (3 p.m. ET). Unless general manager Stan Bowman wants to get creative and try to alleviate some future salary cap concerns, it could be a pretty quiet few weeks for the Blackhawks.


2. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-16-6)


HELP WANTED: Let's assume Matt Carle will be back and ready for the playoffs, and Radko Gudas is a luxury addition at some time during the postseason if the Lightning can play deep into the tournament. Tampa Bay doesn't need anything, but one more defenseman would be nice to keep the Lightning from pressing guys like Nikita Nesterov and Luke Witkowski and even Andrej Sustr into key roles. Nesterov (59.2 Corsi-for percentage despite more defensive zone starts than offensive ones) has been impressive in a small sample.


The Lightning have so many good young players and the proverbial window to contend for a title seems like it could be open for years, but why not strike (no pun intended, promise) now if the right deal presents itself? This year feels more wide open than the past two.


3. Nashville Predators (36-12-6)


HELP WANTED: The Predators have relied heavily on the top-six forwards and the defensemen for offense. The fourth line is getting the Chicago treatment (absorb as many defensive zone starts as possible), but adding some level of offensive punch to the third line seems like a good idea. Someone who could maybe alternate duties with Calle Jarnkrok, especially if he's not ready for a seven-game series against a team deep at center, would be ideal.


4. St. Louis Blues (35-15-4)


HELP WANTED: Up front, just let Dmitrij Jaskin continue to get top-nine minutes, and maybe even sprinkle in Ty Rattie or Magnus Paajarvi as well. Adding Marcel Goc should continue to help drag the fourth line away from being a complete possession sinkhole. Could GM Doug Armstrong use Kevin Shattenkirk's absence as an excuse to grab a quality defenseman? Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester have not been up to their elite-pairing expectations, and players like Barrett Jackman and Chris Butler are just OK. Add one more top-four caliber defenseman and then shuffle everyone below the top three down a peg for a postseason run? Sounds like a good plan.


5. Detroit Red Wings (31-13-9)


HELP WANTED: The Red Wings are like the Lightning, with plenty of young talent and more on the horizon. Where Detroit differs is the chances to win a Stanley Cup with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall still at an elite level are dwindling. The owner, Mike Illitch, has never been afraid to make trades for either of the Detroit teams he owns. Detroit has been linked to every right-handed defenseman rumored to be available for multiple years now, and that seems like a good bet to top GM Ken Holland's wish list. Jakub Kindl and Xavier Ouellet make this a deeper group than probably credited, but would the right righty tempt Holland to pounce?


6. Pittsburgh Penguins (31-15-8)


HELP WANTED: The Penguins could have a fourth line of Goc, Rob Klinkhammer and Mark Arcobello and that trio would probably chew up shot attempts together. Adding David Perron means the Penguins have five sure-fire top-six forwards, and one spot for either Blake Comeau or a deadline addition. In a perfect world, the Penguins add a second-line wing and one more depth forward as well, but the last top-six/first bottom-six spot next to Brandon Sutter should be the priority. Unless Sutter was part of the package, which wouldn't be a terrible idea.


7. Anaheim Ducks (34-14-7)


HELP WANTED: At one point Tuesday, the Florida Panthers had five goals on 12 shots against the Ducks. They may have also had 11 scoring chances as well. Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm is an enviable young trio to start a defense corps with. Most nights Francois Beauchemin and Ben Lovejoy help too. Most nights the guys who make up the rest of the group do not help, and adding anyone who is better with the puck and can mitigate the usage of Clayton Stoner and Eric Brewer could be the difference between a deep run and another quick exit.


8. New York Islanders (35-18-1)


HELP WANTED: This is another team that doesn't really "need" anything and could win two or three rounds without doing anything. Given the circumstances for the Islanders and the lack of a dominant team or two, one more reliable defenseman, or even better a top-six wing, could push them to the top of the East. Think Marian Hossa going to the Penguins in 2008.


Another move to consider could be in net. Chad Johnson has struggled. If he doesn't approach his career save percentage (now .912 in a small sample) and continues at a sub-.880 clip, it could cost the Islanders a division title or home ice in the playoffs, something they'd really like to have in the last stand at the old barn.


9. Boston Bruins (28-19-7)


HELP WANTED: Peter Chiarelli is not shy about make a big move at this time of the season. Maybe that move is an offensively-gifted right wing (since he will likely be linked to at least two of his former teams, maybe another try with Jaromir Jagr, for instance?), but maybe Chiarelli gets even bolder and tries to reel in one of several high-level defensemen who could be available to anchor a second pairing behind Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton.


10. Winnipeg Jets (28-18-10)


HELP WANTED: Getting Drew Stafford pushes Dustin Byfuglien back to defense, which is as big for the present in Winnipeg as adding Stafford and Tyler Myers combined. The Jets could probably still use one more top-nine forward, even if he slots in on the third line. And for Michael Hutchinson to start the first playoff game for the franchise since moving from Atlanta.


11. Washington Capitals (29-16-10)


HELP WANTED: The Capitals could move Mike Green if they are convinced he's not returning. He is a very expensive No. 5 defenseman, but he's also probably the best No. 5 in the NHL and a nice luxury if Washington has designs of a deep run. The Capitals have been looking for a No. 2 center for almost as long as Nicklas Backstrom has been the No. 1. A center is preferred, but a more permanent (for this season, anyway) partner for Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin would also help.


Don't forget about Washington this month. There is a new GM, an owner who wants to win and has been close several times, and some pretty valuable assets to entice trading partners.


12. Montreal Canadiens (35-15-3)


HELP WANTED: Some of the Canadiens' issues could be solved internally, but to expect the coaching staff to make those decisions (like moving Alex Galchenyuk to center, playing Michal Bournival and Jiri Sekac more and Alexei Emelin less) at this point in the season might not be feasible. Getting PA Parenteau back would help, but his return remains TBD. Maybe GM Marc Bergevin can find a veteran forward similar to Bournival or Sekac that the coaches would trust more?


13. Los Angeles Kings (23-18-12)


HELP WANTED: The Kings' biggest hole in the lineup is obvious. They've been without one of their top three defensemen for months because of Slava Voynov's suspension. Los Angeles' biggest reason for not climbing in the standings despite looking like the old Kings at times is goaltending, but hoping Jonathan Quick plays better might be more likely than giving Martin Jones more playing time. Los Angeles could use a top-four defenseman, and there could be several available. If the Kings have any cap space left, another forward (or Mike Richards rediscovering a previous level of play in the minors) would also help.


14. San Jose Sharks (28-20-8)


HELP WANTED: San Jose committed to playing youth more this season, but some of those kids have shown they aren't ready for advanced roles so the Sharks are basically left with the same frontline players but less depth. GM Doug Wilson said he wouldn't trade futures in the offseason, but could he add a depth forward or two and/or a third-pairing defenseman without yielding anything important? A bold move would be adding a goaltender, because neither of the current options has been more than average, and that position became a problem at the end of last season.


15. Minnesota Wild (26-20-7)


HELP WANTED: The Wild lean on their top-four defensemen like crazy, and none of the several options they've tried on the third pairing save for Christian Folin are particularly noteworthy. Still, injuries to Jason Zucker and Matt Cooke leave more obvious holes up front. Also, he's the future and he's been injured and a little unlucky at times, but Mikael Granlund has 18 points in 39 games and a CF% of less than 46 percent since Dec. 1 (granted, in only 16 games). So let's say the Wild could use at least one forward to help with this final playoff push, and if said forward could play center on the second or third line that would be most helpful.


16. New York Rangers (31-16-5)


HELP WANTED: Among forwards with at least 75 minutes of ice time since Dec. 1, Tanner Glass has the second-worst CF% relative to his team's average despite facing some of the easiest competition in the League. If it is not J.T. Miller or Jesper Fast or Chris Mueller, the Rangers could use one and maybe two forwards.


If one of them was a center who the coaching staff would trust to help ease some of Derek Stepan's tough assignments that would be a bonus. Check out the players at the end of a list of forwards with at least 450 minutes of even-strength ice time, and Stepan is the only one who is considered a consistent top-six forward for any team in the bottom 30 in CF% relative to his team's average. He's 13th-worst, nestled in with a peer group that includes Steve Ott, Daniel Paille and Derek Dorsett. And Stepan is getting his fair share of offensive-zone starts, so he's not one of the guys like Manny Malhotra or Boyd Gordon who are absorbing the tough starts to shield other players either.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Myers looking forward to new beginning with Jets


NASHVILLE -- New Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tyler Myers is looking forward to starting the next chapter of his career Thursday against the Nashville Predators.


Myers was traded from the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday with forward Drew Stafford, forward prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux, and a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft for forward Evander Kane, defenseman Zach Bogosian and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf. He joins a Jets team in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference.


"I'm excited," Myers said. "I see the position these guys were in before we came and always playing against them, they play a hard game. To be stepping in to be a part of that now, it's very exciting as a player.


"It was a pretty quick turnaround. [My] agent called me in the morning and said 'It's looking like it could get done.' A few hours later, we were on a flight connecting in Atlanta so there wasn't really much time to think about it or let it sink in."


This is the first time in Myers' career that he was traded, but his new Jets teammates provided him and Stafford some advice on how to handle the situation.


"I've talked to some of the guys," Myers said. "They were talking about times they have been moved. The first few days are a little bit of a whirlwind, but I think it's a good thing that we got here as quick as we did and could get into the mix of things this quickly. The faster we get on the ice, I think it'll be better for both of us."


Jets coach Paul Maurice will try to keep things simple integrating new players into the lineup. Winnipeg has won two straight games and is in fifth place in the Western Conference heading into the game Thursday. Maurice doesn't want to damage the chemistry the Jets have built over the past few games.


"Make as few changes as possible to start," Maurice said. "We've got, on the back end, players that have played together. Zach leaves and Tyler goes into that hole."


Myers joined defenseman Tobias Enstrom at the morning skate in Nashville on Thursday and will play with him against the Predators. Enstrom has played with big, mobile defensemen before, and Maurice said he believes the two could fit nicely together.


"They know each other a little bit, so there's a comfort level there," Maurice said. "[Enstrom], when he played with Dustin [Byfuglien], is used to playing with a guy that gets up the ice quite well. And they average out to be about 6-4 between the two of them."


Maurice knows there will be an adjustment for Myers for the first few games after coming from a different style of play in Buffalo.


"Getting those guys into the room and getting them to feel comfortable is the biggest challenge," Maurice said. "And then not having them think too much in the first game. We run quite a bit different systems than they do in Buffalo, so there's a lot for these guys, a lot of video."


The Sabres are last in the NHL standings and 2-8-0 in their past 10 games. Myers is excited to play for a team that is in a battle for playoff positioning.


"It makes things a lot more exciting, for sure, given the position we're in right now," Myers said. "It's going to be tight going down the stretch. This is what we play for. It's exciting for me definitely, coming from the position we were in."


Myers knows he will have a lot of new things to learn in the next few games, but he's hopeful it will be a quick process. Gaining chemistry with his teammates will be important for Winnipeg's playoff push.


"Hopefully it doesn't take too long," Myers said. "Obviously jumping in [Thursday], there's going to be some things to learn; a new system and figuring out exactly how to work with the guys. It's going to be a different situation for sure. I've never really gone through anything like this, and for me it's just adjusting as fast as I can."



Panthers' Bjugstad set for Minnesota homecoming


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In his second season as an NHL player, Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad isn't afraid to admit he still leans heavily on his mom for help.


Case in point: His return to his home state Thursday as the Panthers play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.


Bjugstad's mother Janeen was in charge of soliciting friends and family for ticket requests recently. The response was overwhelming, as 160 people will be a part of the Bjugstad cheering section.


"Hopefully they'll all be wearing red," Bjugstad said, quickly adding, "Panthers red," as the Wild use red as part of their color scheme. "My mom got a package deal. Thankfully, she took care of it all, seeing who is going to get the tickets, and I didn't have to worry too much about that. Mom came up big there."


The reunion started Wednesday evening for Bjugstad, a native of Blaine, Minn., who spent some time with a few of his former teammates at the University of Minnesota. He was picked up at the team hotel by current Gopher captain and Panthers draft pick Kyle Rau. He was also able to have dinner with his family.


"It's a quick trip, but I always look forward to playing here," Bjugstad said. "I look forward to it and my family looks forward to it."


The game Thursday will be Bjugstad's second back home against the team he grew up cheering for. He had an assist last season in a 3-2 loss.


Bjugstad admitted this will be a much different trip for he and his teammates. The Panthers and Wild are in almost identical positions in opposite conferences, each four points behind the second wild-card position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


"We're in a push right now and these are important points for us," Bjugstad said. "Just being in it is a lot more fun when you're winning and a part [of the playoff race].


"I know a lot of the guys on [the Wild]. It's going to be a good battle."


Perhaps as big a reason for Florida's turnaround as anybody, Bjugstad leads Florida with 18 goals and 33 points this season, establishing himself as one of the NHL's brightest up-and-coming stars.


Florida thinks so much of him that it signed Bjugstad to a six-year, $24.6 million contract at the end of December.


"He's a big strong guy out there and when he gets the puck he's tough to stop," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "He's a great player. We think a lot of the kid. We think he's going to be a good player for a long time."


Bjugstad said he's a more confident player this season, which has been a big reason for his breakout campaign.


"My rookie year I didn't really know what to expect," Bjugstad said. "It's a big deal. Confidence, in this League, once you build that, it starts rolling."



Penguins' Crosby in elite company through 600 games


Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is in Hall of Fame company 600 games into his career. While that isn't necessarily surprising considering what he's done and what he's won, there is statistical data to back it up for anybody who might for some reason disagree.















































HIGHEST POINT TOTALS THROUGH FIRST 600 GAMES
1. Wayne Gretzky1,451
2. Mario Lemieux1,215
3. Mike Bossy921
4. Peter Stastny901
5. Bobby Orr864
6. Jari Kurri848
7. Bryan Trottier830
8. Denis Savard827
9. Sidney Crosby 825


Crosby has amassed the ninth-highest point total (825) through a player's first 600 games in NHL history. The eight players ahead of Crosby on the list are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Crosby is five points away from being tied for seventh on the list.


The players ahead of him are: Wayne Gretzky (1,451 points through 600 games), Mario Lemieux (1,215), Mike Bossy (921), Peter Stastny (901), Bobby Orr (864), Jari Kurri (848), Bryan Trottier (830), and Denis Savard (827).


Crosby is currently 137th on the NHL's all-time scoring list, but he has the fewest number of games played among the top 226 scorers in League history.


Of the players ahead of him on the League's career scoring list, Orr is the closest in games played (915 points in 657 games) to Crosby and 117 of them appeared or have appeared in at least 1,000 games.


Crosby is 15th in points among active players despite missing 158 games because of injury in his career. He is tied for 160th in games played among active players.


Crosby has 18 fewer points that Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk, who has played in 266 more games. He is 26 points shy of Daniel Sedin's 851, but Sedin has played in 432 more games.


Of the active scoring leaders ahead of Crosby, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (866 points) is the closest in games played, but he has played in 134 more games than Crosby.


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Top performer: Predators' Neal delivers in overtime


A clutch shot from forward James Neal helped the Nashville Predators widened their lead in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the top regular-season team in the NHL.


Neal came up big on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena when he scored with 33 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Predators a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Following a turnover near center ice, Nashville defenseman Roman Josi found Neal breaking toward the Lightning net. Neal skated past Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman and beat goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy through the five-hole with a wrist shot from the left circle.


"At that point, I'm trying to get to the net as quickly as possible and I'm not worried about the clock," Neal told The Associated Press. "Josi made a great play up the middle to spring me and threw it up with a bit of speed there, and I got it off quick."


Thanks to Neal, who scored his fifth game-winning goal of the season, Nashville moved three points ahead of the Anaheim Ducks and four ahead of the Lightning for the League's best regular-season record.



Fantasy top 30 goalies: Dubnyk thriving with Wild


Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top 30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.


Devan Dubnyk isn't the hero many in Minnesota expected, but he's certainly performed the role of hero quite well.


Or maybe the Minnesota Wild saved Dubnyk. How one defines the situation is a matter of semantics, but one thing that's not up for debate is Dubnyk's resurgence in Minnesota and how much he's been able to help the Wild in such a short period of time.


On Jan. 14, Dubnyk was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to Minnesota for a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Trading for a goalie in-season is never a sure-fire proposition but the Wild were desperately in need of help in the crease. Prior to Dubnyk's acquisition, Minnesota was tied for last in the League in on-ice save percentage at .889, according to war-on-ice.com.


Dubnyk, facing a heavy workload in Arizona, had a .916 save percentage in his 19 appearances with the Coyotes this season prior to the trade. One could have predicted Dubnyk would have offered the Wild better goaltending than they were getting, but that wasn't entirely saying much.


Yet Dubnyk has risen to the level of the League's elites in his short time in Minnesota. Since debuting for the Wild on Jan. 15, Dubnyk ranks fifth with a .941 percentage among goalies who have played at least 400 minutes, according to war-on-ice.com.


When Dubnyk earned his fourth shutout in his ninth start, he became the fastest goalie to have four shutouts with a team among goalies who debuted in the expansion era, according to Elias Sports Bureau.


Dubnyk's job has been much easier since joining the Wild. During his time in Arizona, Dubnyk faced an average of 32.5 shots per 60 minutes, which ranked the eighth-highest among goalies, according to war-on-ice.com. Add to that the Coyotes were allowing 29 scoring chances against per 60 minutes in (fifth-most among any team League) and Dubnyk's minutes weren't exactly pressure-free.


Minnesota, however, has provided Dubnyk with a cushier work environment. Dubnyk has faced an average of 25.7 shots per 60 minutes since joining the Wild, the second-fewest in the League, according to war-on-ice.com, only behind Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's also a drop-off of more than six shots per 60 minutes, or the difference between the stingiest team as far as average shots allowed per 60 minutes this season, and the second-highest team overall.



Devan Dubnyk



STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 12 GAMES


RECORD: 17-6-3

GAA: 2.27 | SVP: .924



And those opportunities, on average, aren't as dangerous as what Dubnyk was facing on the Coyotes. Minnesota has allowed 23.9 scoring chances against per 60 minutes since Dubnyk debuted, the third-fewest in the League. Again, the difference is alarming: the 5.1 fewer scoring chances against per 60 Dubnyk is seeing constitutes the difference between the team that allows the lowest number of scoring chances in the League per 60 this season and the team that allows the 12-fewest.

Essentially, Dubnyk went from a team that allowed high-volume, high-risk shot opportunities to one that, even before he got there, was excellent in terms of shot and quality suppression. His improvements have been considerable, but not unpredictable.


Of goalies to change teams midseason, Dubnyk has been (at least so far) one of the biggest success stories in recent memory. Dwayne Roloson helped the Edmonton Oilers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 after an in-season trade, but had very mediocre numbers in the regular season. Patrick Roy won 22 games for the Colorado Avalanche in 1995-96 after an in-season trade and helped them win the Stanley Cup that season.


Should Dubnyk continue to perform at his current level, he'll enter the territory of those two trades.





Curtis McElhinney



STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 12 GAMES


RECORD: 7-9-1

GAA: 2.84 | SVP: .914



TRENDING UP

Curtis McElhinney , Columbus Blue Jackets


Getting the bulk of the minutes in Columbus' goal with Sergei Bobrovsky out, McElhinney has put up strong numbers even if his record does not reflect that. McElhinney has gone 3-3-0, but with a .920 save percentage. He's giving the Blue Jackets a chance to win every night, and two of his three losses have been one-goal games. He's owned in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues, which is a pretty low number.


TRENDING DOWN


Jonathan Quick , Los Angeles Kings


As Los Angeles is battling for playoff position, Quick is battling his own struggles. Quick has allowed three or more goals in five of his past seven starts and, dating back to when he was pulled against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 3 after allowing three goals on nine shots, is 3-6-3 with an .891 save percentage. Quick has won his past two starts (five goals allowed on 54 shots) but with the Kings in desperate need of points, Quick needs to steady his play.


KEEP AN EYE ON


The Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks



John Gibson



STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 12 GAMES


RECORD: 2-2-0

GAA: 2.66 | SVP: .915



Each of these teams have a lot of talent in the crease, but are going through some decision-making periods. The Ducks sent starter Frederik Andersen to injured reserve and called up John Gibson, who many assume is the future franchise goaltender. Gibson relieved Ilya Bryzgalov on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers and didn't fare much better, but if Gibson plays well in Andersen's absence, Anaheim will be forced to consider keeping him around.

In Detroit, Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson are each getting healthy at the same time. Howard is reportedly starting Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets, while Petr Mrazek -- who filled in while they were both out -- started Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was pulled in favor of Howard to start the third period. Howard should resume his role as starter, but coming off an injury, whoever hangs around as the backup would be a worthwhile fantasy asset. If Mrazek wins the backup job, with Gustavsson an unrestricted free agent this summer, he's certainly a trade possibility with the NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. on March 2 approaching.




TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES


These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our ranks are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team's strong defense and offense.































































































1Carey Price, MTL (SAME)16Semyon Varlamov, COL (SAME)
2Pekka Rinne, NSH (SAME)17Cam Talbot, NYR (+9)
3Tuukka Rask, BOS (+2) 18Kari Lehtonen, DAL (+1)
4Brian Elliott, STL (SAME)19Jonathan Quick, LAK (-4)
5Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (+1) 20Antti Niemi, SJS (-2)
6Corey Crawford, CHI (+1) 21Jonas Hiller, CGY (+2)
7Roberto Luongo, FLA (+1) 22Craig Anderson, OTT (NR - IR)
8Braden Holtby, WAS (+3) 23Curtis McElhinney, CBJ (+6)
9Jaroslav Halak, NYI (+3) 24Petr Mrazek, DET (-4)
10Ben Bishop, TBL (-1) 25Martin Jones, LAK (NR - IR)
11Ryan Miller, VAN (+2) 26Antti Raanta, CHI (-1)
12Devan Dubnyk, MIN (+10) 27Alex Stalock, SJS (+1)
13Jimmy Howard, DET (NR - IR) 28Jake Allen, STL (-1)
14Cory Schneider, NJD (+3)29Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (NEW)
15Michael Hutchinson, WPG (-1) 30John Gibson, ANA (NEW)

Dropped out: Jonathan Bernier, Robin Lehner


Key injuries: Henrik Lundqvist, Frederik Andersen, Sergei Bobrovsky, Steve Mason


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