Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bruins ’14 first-rounder Pastrnak injures shoulder

David Pastrnak had cause for optimism going into training camp, but he’s hit a bit of a roadblock early on. Pastrnak left Saturday’s practice because he fell into the boards awkwardly following a hit from Matt Bartkowski, per CSN New England. The Bruins later revealed that he suffered a tweaked shoulder and isn’t expected to play in Sunday’s scrimmage.

The good news is that the Bruins don’t think the injury is serious, but the timing is still unfortunate. After being selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Pastrnak had been labeled as a candidate to make the team’s opening game roster by Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, but with the odds likely stacked against him, Pastrnak needs every opportunity he can get to make his case.

Prior to the injury, the Bruins had paired Pastrnak up with fellow Czech David Krejci, but now that he’s hurt, that opportunity has at least temporarily gone to Tyler Randell.

It’s also worth noting that while Chiarelli felt Pastrnak’s “speed, skill, sense is all there,” he was concerned in July that the 18-year-old forward might not have bulked up enough to be ready to match up physically in the NHL.

He had eight goals and 24 points in 36 games in Sweden’s second-tier league in 2013-14.

Update: Drouin out with upper body injury, not expected to miss preseason

Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin was held out of Saturday’s training camp activities due to what the team is calling an upper body injury.

The report comes from Lightning beat reporter Erik Erlendsson, who says the forward is listed as day to day:

Drouin, 19, is looking to make the leap to the NHL this season after scoring 29 goals and 108 points in his third season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2013-14.

The 2013 third overall selection is likely to get a long look by the Lightning brass as he tries to make his case for a top six role with the club.

Tampa Bay does however have the flexibility of returning him to junior with a year of eligibility left before he could play in the American Hockey League.

With Drouin out, free agent camp invite Yanni Gourde took the forward’s place on a line with Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik Saturday.

Report: Clarkson, Bozak out with lower body injuries

David Clarkson‘s 2013-14 season did not start well.

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward was suspended 10 games for leaving the team’s bench to join an altercation during a preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres.

It was the beginning of year to forget.

Due to injuries and suspensions the Ontario native dressed in just 60 games scoring a career-low five goals and 11 points after signing a mammoth seven-year $37 million contract last summer.

It’s a deal some call the worst in franchise history.

“He’s got 10 games on the bench, which I think was a big part of how he played,” general manager Dave Nonis told The National Post earlier this week. “A lot of things went wrong for him. Very few went right. It spiraled out of control. But David Clarkson didn’t turn into a bad hockey player over night. He had two very strong years prior to coming here. It looks like he’s worked tremendously hard to come back and have a good year this year and he’ll be given every opportunity to do that.”

The Clarkson news didn’t get better Saturday as word out of Leafs’ camp is the 30-year-old along with center Tyler Bozak are likely to miss a couple of days due to lower body injuries.

Related: Despite ‘nightmare’ season, Clarkson excited for future

TRAINING CAMP AUDIO: Alain Vigneault, Martin St. Louis

Rick Carpiniello, 26, was born and raised in Harrison and began working in The Journal News' sports department (back when it was The Reporter Dispatch and eight other newspapers) in October of 1977 after a year of covering high school sports as a stringer. For more than 20 years he covered the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. Carpiniello has been writing columns on everything from local sports to the big leagues since 2002. Copyright 2014 | Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, updated September 2010.'s team-by-team season preview schedule

Senators must get Ryan scoring, trim goals-against continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

General manager Bryan Murray has set the bar for what will be the measure of success for the Ottawa Senators in 2014-15, and it is nothing less than a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Murray's expectations might seem like a tall order for a team that finished 11th in the Eastern Conference last season, particularly now that the Senators have lost the point-per-game production of No. 1 center Jason Spezza (687 points in 686 games), whose wish to leave Canada's capital was accommodated by a trade to the Dallas Stars.

The loss of Spezza's offense, however, is hardly the only priority the Senators will have to address to reach Murray's goal. Here are Ottawa's three keys to success:

1. Stay out of the penalty box and drastically cut down on goals allowed -- The Senators' biggest need is to reduce the number of goals they allow, especially on the power play. Ottawa gave up 61 power-play goals last season, the second-highest total in the NHL (one less than the Florida Panthers). The Senators were shorthanded a League-high 320 times.

Before singling out goalies Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner for Ottawa's horrid 3.15 team goals-against average, consider that the Senators allowed a staggering 2,849 shots on goal, second-most in the League

"We obviously have to focus a great deal on playing better defense," Murray told the Ottawa Sun. "Our defensive core last year really took a step backwards. It affected the goaltending and the results weren't very good. We were taking penalties, not positioning ourselves properly."

2. A 30-goal season from Bobby Ryan and production from the rest of the top line -- It appears Ryan and the Senators will enter the season with the high-scoring right wing's contract talks on hold.

Spezza's departure clearly places Kyle Turris in the No. 1 center's role. Ryan failed to find chemistry with Spezza at the outset of his Ottawa debut but clicked with Turris, who also teamed up nicely with left wing Clarke MacArthur. Their line rivaled Spezza's as the Senators' top trio, and they enter the 2014-15 season with the responsibility of leading the offense.

Ryan scored at least 31 goals in each of his first four full seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. A return to that level and repeat performances from Turris and MacArthur are keys to the Senators achieving Murray's goal of a playoff spot.

"Obviously, losing [Spezza] is a big piece of our team, for a lot of years," defenseman Chris Phillips told the Ottawa Sun. "The production he brought to the team, it's hard to fill. But in saying that, we expect other guys to jump in and take that ice time that he had, and produce. … As a team we expect to win every night. Those are our expectations. That's the only way you can go."

3. Make Canadian Tire Centre a tougher stop for opponents -- Ottawa had to win five of its last seven games at Canadian Tire Centre to finish above .500 at home; the Senators ended with an 18-17-6 mark.

Playoff teams generally have stronger home records than that, and this is an area the Senators can focus on in their bid to contend in what should prove to be a difficult Atlantic Division race with the likes of the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning leading the pack.

Better pace, fast start key for Jets' success continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

The Winnipeg Jets believe they can make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg despite a roster mostly left intact after the team finished at the bottom of the Central Division last season.

However, the to-do list is lengthy for coach Paul Maurice, who will begin his first full season with the Jets.

The Jets' power play was 25th in the League, and their 18 home wins were the second-fewest in the Western Conference.

Of course, any improvements the Jets might make this season could be for naught if their goaltending does not improve. Winnipeg was 22nd last season at 2.82 goals-allowed per game, and Ondrej Pavelec had a .901 save percentage, a career full-season low that ranked him 46th among 51 qualified NHL goaltenders.

Here are the three most crucial issues the Jets need to resolve in order to have success this season:

1. Play with "pace" -- Speak with anyone on the Jets for even a minute or two, and the word "pace" inevitably enters the conversation.

The Jets' best asset is their speed.

"I think [Maurice] came in and realized our team is a team with size that can skate," right wing Blake Wheeler said. "He kind of took the handcuffs off a bit, let us skate, let us get up and down the ice, and I think that made it tough on other teams."

With an upgraded organizational commitment to fitness, the Jets believe they can wear down opponents. Captain Andrew Ladd believes that improvement can begin in the high-tempo practices Maurice implemented last season.

"When Paul got here, the way that we practiced really translated to games at the end of the [season] and the way we played with speed," Ladd said. "We're going to have to do that on a consistent basis and that will be the biggest thing for us.

"The teams that I have been on that have been successful in the past, we've practiced extremely hard.

2. Improve against the Central Division -- Only the Buffalo Sabres (7-18-5 against the Atlantic) and the Edmonton Oilers (8-17-4 against the Pacific) had fewer wins in divisional play than did the Jets, who went 9-15-5 against the Central Division last season.

Somehow they must improve within the division despite the significant upgrades that every other Central Division team made this summer.

"We had a lot of games last [season] against good teams that were one-goal games," center Bryan Little said. "Maybe a couple of changes and we can make those games go our way. We know we can play with those teams."

3. Avoid another slow start –- Add this area as another entry that the Jets hope improved fitness can correct.

The Jets began last season with five wins in 15 games; in 2012-13 they won six of their first 15, and in 2011-12 it was five wins in their first 15.

The opening two months of 2014-15 pose a significant challenge. Along with a season-opening road trip of three games in four nights at the Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, the Jets also have four- and five-game road trips before mid-November.

In all, 12 of the Jets' first 19 games are on the road.

Jets' Wheeler focused on playing beyond 82 games continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Blake Wheeler wants you to know that he's got a great job, and nobody -- not his Winnipeg Jets teammates, not the prospects in St. John's, not you -- is taking it off his hands anytime soon.

"You always have that feeling from when you were a young player in the League," Wheeler said. "You never want to miss a shift, you never want to miss a rep, because there's always somebody gunning for your job. So the more you can be on the ice, the better. You never want to miss any time."

Since entering the NHL with the Boston Bruins in 2008-09, Wheeler barely has. In six seasons, the 28-year-old has missed four games. He last sat out on Jan. 17, 2012, after being hit in the throat with a puck two games prior. Over the 166 consecutive games since, Wheeler has solidified his position as one of the most reliable and consistent performers in the League.

Wheeler enjoyed his most impressive season as an NHL player in 2013-14, despite playing for a makeshift Jets team that underwent a coaching change at midseason. He set career highs and led the Jets in goals (28) and points (69), the third straight season he has led them in at least one of those categories. He had similar numbers under each coach, Claude Noel and Paul Maurice, and finished the season with career highs in power-play goals (eight) and game-winning goals (four). Wheeler also played six games for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Despite his breakout season, Wheeler sees room for improvement. He was unhappy with his start to the season, when he managed nine points over his first 17 games, a stretch when the Jets went 6-9-2. This year, Wheeler returned to Winnipeg a few weeks earlier than normal to get himself into the best shape possible ahead of the new season.

"I haven't been great about the last couple years, for whatever reason, I've gotten off to slow starts," Wheeler said. "Collectively as a team, we've been guilty of that as well. I want to come in in great shape, have a really strong camp, play well in the preseason and then have that carry over into the first game."

Wheeler, who will serve as an alternate captain this season, is a key part of the Jets' core, a group of players including Bryan Little, Evander Kane, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and Mark Stuart. Each of these players is signed at least through 2017-18, and Wheeler thinks the pieces are in place for the franchise's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the Atlanta Thrashers made their lone trip in 2007.

Blake Wheeler

Right Wing - WPG

GOALS: 28 | ASST: 41 | PTS: 69

SOG: 225 | +/-: 4

"They've done a good job locking those guys in long term and identifying that these are the guys who will take us where we want to go," Wheeler said. "Now it's just a matter of building around that core, and I think that's kind of where we're at right now."

Wheeler is also excited to play a full season under Maurice, a coach who shares his priorities of fitness, accountability and a team-first mentality. Wheeler said Maurice "removed the handcuffs" when he took the job in mid-January, and the Jets responded with a 9-2-0 run before injuries and inconsistency crippled a late postseason push. Ultimately, the Jets finished last in a competitive Central Division.

"That's what I look at," Wheeler said of the hot stretch after Maurice took the reins. "That's what gives me hope and confidence that we're pointed in the right direction. We've got some tough teams in our division. We're not stupid. But we feel like we're in that mix, and we're not going to make it easy to come into Winnipeg and win games there."

Ultimately, Wheeler takes pride in his perfect attendance record, but he knows that playing all 82 games means nothing if he can't help the Jets reach an 83rd.

"It's been a few too many years here just playing 82 games," Wheeler said. "The summers have been long. I'm just excited to get off to a good start and surprise some people right out of the gate."

Karlsson looks forward to long career with Senators continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Erik Karlsson has watched as the longtime face of the Ottawa Senators has changed during the past 15 months.

The changes began when Daniel Alfredsson stunned many who thought he would sport the Senators crest for life when he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings on July 5, 2013. This summer the Senators honored the trade request of Jason Spezza, who had succeeded Alfredsson as captain, sending him to the Dallas Stars.

With two key members of the 2007 Stanley Cup Final team having moved on and the Senators trying to build their way back to being a title contender, Karlsson made clear during the NHL Player Media Tour earlier this month that he's thrilled to be in Ottawa and envisions himself finishing his career there.

"Yeah, definitely, I'm happy with everything in Ottawa. I love the city, I love the fans, I love the organization," Karlsson said. "The city of Ottawa has been nothing but good to me. It's a great organization. It's a competitive market and that's the way I want it to be. I'm very fortunate to be able to play for a Canadian team where everybody's so passionate about hockey. It's a lot of expectations on you, but that's great and it can be very rewarding. … I think we're moving in the right direction and I can definitely see myself spending my entire [career] in Ottawa."

Karlsson is signed for five more years, and the Senators would be thrilled if he keeps producing at the rate he did in 2013-14. Coming off an Achilles injury that cost him most of the previous season, he played all 82 games for the first time in his five-year career, scored a career-high 20 goals and finished four off his career high with 74 points.

Karlsson also had a star showing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics; he scored four goals and finished with eight points in six games to help Sweden win the silver medal. His season ended with the Senators finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference, five points out of the conference's final wild-card spot. It led to a long offseason, but one that may end up proving beneficial.

"I had personally a great summer," he said. "Got a lot of traveling done, and workout-wise for me it was good to be able to be in the gym for a long time and really work on my body and coming back from the [Achilles] injury I needed a long summer personally. But it's not something that I wished for, or if I could I would have traded for a short summer."

Two seasons ago the Senators not only made the playoffs but upset the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. In order to flip the script back in their favor, they'll need to improve on a 3.15 team goals-against average that ranked 27th in the League last season. They were 11th in goals at 2.79 per game, but will be challenged to match or better that in Spezza's absence.

Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlsson

Defense - OTT

GOALS: 20 | ASST: 54 | PTS: 74

SOG: 257 | +/-: -15

Veteran forwards Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris, Milan Michalek and Clarke MacArthur all return, and there's young talent in Mika Zibanejad and Mark Stone that will be needed to take the next step. Also in that group is young forward Alex Chiasson, acquired in the Spezza trade.

Karlsson is confident the defense, which still boasts stalwart Chris Phillips, another veteran in Marc Methot and developing stars in Jared Cowen and Cody Ceci, will get the job done. And he applauded the front office's decision to sign goaltenders Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner to three-year contracts during the summer. Anderson turned 33 in May; Lehner is 23. Karlsson sees them as a winning tandem.

"I think that might be the strongest part of our team," he said. "We have a veteran goalie that's been around for a long time and has been playing great for us and he has the experience, and we have Robin who's younger and he's eager to get more time in the net. That's where I think we feel really confident that we have two great guys and they complement each other real well and get along. And they help each other out to become better players. Whoever gets to play, I think we're satisfied with what we have behind us."

Although he was sad to see some of the franchise's fixtures depart during the past two seasons, Karlsson is confident this group will create an identity and hopefully discover some of the same success.

"That's the unfortunate way in our business; you're going to see guys leave and come and go, and you're going to meet a lot of new, great players," he said. "For us, I think [Alfredsson] leaving and now Spezza, it's been two key players for a long time and obviously that's going to change the look of our dressing room and we're going to miss them, but at the same time I think everybody's excited to move forward and build something new.

"That's what we have to do, I think, look forward. That's what we do every season, and I think the atmosphere in the room is great. All the guys are very excited coming into the season. I've spoken to pretty much everybody on the team, and everybody's had a great summer and everybody's looking forward to coming back and seeing what [this season] brings us."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Marc Staal bides his time; hopes contract talks won’t be a distraction

Click here to see an outstanding photo gallery from the first day of training camp, by’s Frank Becerra Jr.

Here is my story from and The Journal News:

By Rick Carpiniello

GREENBURGH – Marc Staal has seen it up close, and very recently. The walk year of a contract can go many ways, and some of those ways aren’t very good.

Staal’s longtime Rangers teammates Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan each went into the 2013-14 season in the final year of his contract.

Lundqvist got his big deal done in December, but later admitted the distraction played a part in his awful start to what was the worst regular season of his career. Girardi got his done in March, a fair deal for both sides, but he had to wait it out. Callahan’s contract never got done, and the former captain overplayed his hand and got himself a ticket out of town at the trade deadline.Rangers Report old logo

So Staal — entering the final season of a five-year, $19.9 million contract — would like to get this settled sooner rather than later.

“Obviously you want to avoid that type of situation,” he said Friday about the Lundqvist, Girardi and Callahan experiences. “I don’t think it’s helpful to anyone when it goes that far like that, so hopefully that won’t happen and we can find some common ground and move on.”

Sometimes an athlete will toss a deadline out there, attempting to cut off the distraction, saying that if a deal can’t be done by such-and-such date he’d like to wait until after the season. Staal said that isn’t in the plans at the moment.

“We haven’t talked too much upon that yet,” he said as the Rangers opened training camp. “Right now, it’s open dialogue. Play it by ear and see how it goes.”

Girardi got six years at $5.5 million per. Staal, 27 and just hitting his prime as a defenseman, is going to get at least that — and probably considerably more if he actually gets to the open market July 1. That’s assuming he’s healthy, having been through concussion issues and a frightening eye injury from which he is not 100 percent recovered.

There is also the assumption that Staal, who has been an alternate captain, will be considered for the captaincy vacated by Callahan’s departure, though it is widely speculated that Ryan McDonagh will get the “C” and Staal will remain among the alternates.

Staal said he didn’t know if his contractual status would affect that.

“Obviously, yeah, you’d love to be a captain and a leader. But with the guys we have in the room, there’s not going to be a bad decision made, whatever way they go,” he said. “As far as the contract is concerned, that’s not a question for me. That’s out of my hands.”

So he came to camp hoping the contract would take care of itself.

“I don’t think it changes anything for me,” he said. “I’m going to approach training camp the same way I always have, and come in and work hard and help our team become successful again. For me, that won’t change. I’m excited and optimistic to start the season here.”

Losing in the Stanley Cup Final, he said, has left him hungry for more.

“It’s motivation,” Staal said. “You get that close, you want to get there again and finish it off.”

Twitter: @RangersReport

Photo by Getty Images.

Clowe ‘advised’ to fight less, not sure he will

Ryane Clowe has medical clearance to participate in training camp, but that doesn’t change the fact that he suffered three concussions in less than a year.

In light of that, he admitted that he’s been “advised” to scale back how much he fights, but Clowe doesn’t know if he’ll be able change his game in that way.

“It’s hard when I’m out there,” Clowe told the Bergen Record. “I’m a competitive guy, so I get fired up easily. We’ll see how that goes.”

Devils coach Pete DeBoer seems to think the status quo will persist when it comes to Clowe.

“Ryane plays the game one way and I think when you have a conversation with him you realize that he doesn’t play thinking about not doing something. He can’t play that way,” DeBoer said. “So, I don’t want him doing that, but at the same time I know what type of player he is and that’s always going to probably be a part of his game.”

Clowe practiced with the Devils on Friday and felt good. He won’t participate in their first preseason game, but beyond that nothing has been finalized. DeBoer did indicate that he’ll probably need to participate in at least two exhibition contests to be ready for the regular season.

Orpik heard good things ‘human-being wise’ about Trotz

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik didn’t know head coach Barry Trotz going into the offseason, but he wanted to change that before he signed a contract as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Orpik reached out to a lot of players that worked under Trotz in Nashville and was encouraged by what he heard.

“I didn’t hear one bad thing, hockey-wise or person-wise,” Orpik said, per CSN Washington. “Human being-wise, that kind of trumped all the hockey-related opinions I got from guys. To be honest, there were a couple guys I talked with where it didn’t really work out for them in Nashville hockey-wise, and even those guys had nothing bad to say about him.

“I had a pretty good feel before I even met with him and when I met with him on that Sunday I told my wife after, ‘It’s going to be hard to call a couple teams back and tell them no, but it would be even harder to call Barry back and tell him no.’ We were struggling right ‘til the last day there and that pretty much sealed it for me.”

Orpik noted that Trotz had the entire rosters’ “respect and attention” right off the bat.

Trotz and Orpik are new to the organization and will be under increased scrutiny as a result. Both have plenty to prove, but Orpik is arguably joining the Capitals under a different light given that his five-year, $27.5 million contract has been widely criticized.

Merrill appears woozy, helped off ice after head collision

While participating in a three-on-three drill during the first day of training camp, Jon Merrill crashed into Ruslan Fedotenko and needed to be helped off the ice.

“I don’t have an update yet,” DeBoer told the Bergen Record. “I think he’s going to be fine, but I don’t have anything specific, yet.”

Fedotenko revealed that they hit heads together during the collision, per Tom Gulitti. He got the chance to speak with Merill later and believes that the defenseman is okay, but conceded that he’s of course not a doctor.

Merrill initially appeared to be woozy while he was getting off the ice based on separate reports from the Record and Star-Ledger. The obvious fear is that Merrill might have a concussion, but the Devils haven’t suggested that that’s the case.

It’s worth adding that the 22-year-old defenseman did unfortunately suffer a concussion in his NHL debut last season. He still went on to record 11 points and average 19:13 minutes per game in 52 contests. There’s a good chance he’ll start the season as a top-six defenseman if he’s healthy enough to do so.

Joe Sakic’s now general manager in name too

Joe Sakic has certainly seemed like the general manager of the Colorado Avalanche since he assumed the post of executive vice president of hockey operations, but that wasn’t the case on paper. Until now.

As the Denver Post noted, the Avalanche quietly gave Sakic the title of general manager in addition to his old position of executive vice president. Former GM Greg Sherman is staying on as an assistant general manager.

In practice, this changing of titles might not result in any noticeable differences given that Sherman already reported to Sakic, but if anyone was confused about the team’s management structure before, then this will clarify things.

Sakic, along with head coach Patrick Roy, have helped turn the Colorado Avalanche around by guiding them to the playoffs after a three season drought.


Sakic says Avs ownership gave ‘green light’ to ‘make this team win’

Kyle Palmieri out at least two weeks with high ankle sprain

The Ducks started training camp with some bad news as 23-year-old forward Kyle Palmieri has suffered a high ankle sprain. Anaheim hopes he’ll be able to play in its final preseason contest on Oct. 4, but high ankle sprains can be difficult to come back from.

Palmieri started a three-year, $4.4 million contract last season and went on to record 14 goals and 31 points in 71 games. He logged just 11:56 minutes per game, but that included an average of 1:17 power-play minutes.

The Ducks also announced that Shea Theodore has an ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his right elbow and will consequently be sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks. He was hurt during Sunday’s rookie game.

The 19-year-old defenseman was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He wasn’t expected to make the team’s opening game roster, but this still denies him the opportunity to play alongside the Ducks during the preseason.

MacLean, Ryan trying to evolve to best fit Senators

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean and star forward Bobby Ryan are looking at evolving their identities this season.

For MacLean, the NHL's coach of the year two seasons ago, it's a softening of the edge he felt was needed last season, but one that turned out to be too sharp.

For Ryan, who is coming off surgery for a sports hernia, it's an expanded role as he enters the last season of his contract and ponders his future and how he might fit into the Senators' picture over the long term. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season.

How well the two grow and adapt to changing roles will go a long way toward determining the Senators' success this season, and, ultimately Ryan's future with the team.

As the Senators prepared to take off Friday for Newfoundland and a doubleheader of preseason games against the New York Islanders on Monday, MacLean was asked by how he could be a better coach this season.

"Win more games?" he said. "Besides that? I think I just have to be myself. We ask the players to be themselves. I think it's important that I be myself and do what I do."

MacLean admitted he got away from being himself last season.

After guiding the Senators to a 41-31-10 record in his rookie season in 2011-12 and a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, MacLean followed with a 25-17-6 record in 2012-13 and a first-round win against the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He earned the Jack Adams Award as the coach of the year.

To improve as a coach, he decided he needed to be more demanding last season. The Senators slipped to 37-31-14 and missed the playoffs.

In their exit interviews with Senators general manager Bryan Murray at the end of last season, a few players told him they wanted the old MacLean back.

"They like the guy that sat and talked to them, treated them in a more easy-going fashion. That taught, not confronted," Murray said.

MacLean said he made the decision to be more demanding, "to have things done the way that I wanted them to be and not just accept or let the players just play hockey and see how things would go. Or just be more demanding of what I wanted and what my expectations were … it's not the only reason why the team didn't have some success, but I think it had an effect on the team."

MacLean could sense his tougher approach wasn't paying off, but wanted to carry it through to the end of the season and evaluate at that point.

It sounds like the players will get something closer to the "old Paul" this season. The coach said this season he will be "a hybrid" of the coach he was the first two seasons in the League and the coach he was last season.

Ryan, who has deferred contract talks until he gets a feel for where he fits into the picture this season, wants an expanded role.

With former captain Jason Spezza traded to the Dallas Stars in July, there is a bigger role there for the taking for Ryan, 27, on and off the ice.

MacLean has talked about Ryan being in the mix for the extra five minutes each game which goes to the offensive players who are on top of their games that night and also for a role killing penalties.

Ryan ranked fifth among Senators forwards in ice time last season at 16:52 per game and tied for third on the team with 23 goals.

"The only thing I would say for Bobby is that he has to be prepared for it too, and something has to happen when he's out there," MacLean said on the eve of camp. "The best players play. If you're one of the best players in that game, you're going to get that extra five minutes."

While contract talks between Ryan and the Senators have been ongoing, Ryan said he's taking and a wait-and-see approach.

"At the end of the day you're hitching your wagon to a team for seven years," Ryan said. "It's OK to take some time to realize that it's really what you want or not."

Kraft Hockeyville comes at right time for Sylvan Lake

The Stanley Cup was in Sylvan Lake, Alberta for the second time in three summers when then-Los Angeles Kings forward Colin Fraser brought it to the small town between Calgary and Edmonton last month.

It will be back next week, and lots of NHL players will be joining it when Sylvan Lake becomes the setting for Kraft Hockeyville 2014. The four-day hockey festival starts Sunday and culminates Wednesday when the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes square off in a preseason game at the Sylvan Lake Multiplex.

"It's more than just a game. That's the message we've been trying to get out," said Graham Parsons, a member of the town council and organizing committee for Sylvan Lake's contest campaign. "Kraft and the Hockeyville people have really built this up to be just a great event. It is four days of celebration. Given the size of our rink, the tickets we had available for people to win were in the hundreds. It is really about celebrating everything around the game."

The game between the Flames and Coyotes will take place at the Multiplex, but a big reason for why Sylvan Lake earned this hockey showcase is located next door. Sylvan Lake Arena was built in 1972, but in January the roof collapsed.

No one was injured (one person who was working inside the arena got outside before the full collapse), but the town was left without one of its important civic centers.

"We had a real tough winter. It was even more snow than usual," Parsons said. "The rink is 42 years old. It is a wood building. It was just an ordinary, small-town rink when it was built and we had about 1,200 people in the town. Now we're up over 15,000. We were planning on a new one anyway, but the roof just collapsed.

"What happened recently is the roof collapsed, but we had some guys who thought we should try for Kraft Hockeyville before, including [resident] Kevin Putnam. When the roof of the rink fell down, it was such a big part of our town. He got the idea to nominate us for Kraft Hockeyville, and it just took off like wildfire. Emotions were high. Everything was just going crazy. It was really a tough time, but we just picked ourselves up by our bootstraps and away we went."

Sylvan Lake beat out 15 other Canadian communities for the right to host Hockeyville. Along with the NHL preseason game, there will be youth clinics, officials clinics and alumni from both franchises taking part in the festivities. There will also be a viewing party of the game outside the Multiplex, and the town is expecting the crowd to number into the thousands.

Parsons wasn't born in Sylvan Lake, but he's been connected to its hockey history for four decades. A 1972 draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Parsons spent time in the International Hockey League and American Hockey League. A goaltender by trade, he was one of six founding members of the Sylvan Lake Summer Hockey School in 1975.

While it is a resort town and popular tourist destination in Alberta, Sylvan Lake is certainly a hockey community as well. Current players like Fraser and ex-NHLers alike have summer homes in the area, and this event will help the town show off its love for the sport to the rest of the country.

"The ride to being the contest winner just glued the town together," Parsons said. "It was community spirit like you've never seen in a town before. It all came in stages. When it came down to the top with us and Kingston, Nova Scotia, we had parades and a road hockey tournament. We had about 8,000 people here with big screen TVs and bands, and when [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman announced it, it was just bedlam. It was unbelievable."

Beyond the game, winning Kraft Hockeyville also means a prize of $100,000 to use for improvements and upgrades to local hockey facilities. Sylvan Lake doesn't just need improvements; it needs a new arena.

The Flames and Coyotes will see the old arena, fallen roof and all, when they're in Sylvan Lake on Wednesday. If some of them come back in future summers, they'll see the new one that Kraft Hockeyville helped make happen.

"The last impact is the community spirit," Parsons said. "We had plans for a new complex. We were going to start in the next couple of years. It was kind of fracturing the town because different people wanted different concepts and we were struggling with it. As soon as the roof collapsed and the Hockeyville campaign took off, everybody put their boots on and got their heads together and came up with a real nice concept for a community center. It is going to be good for a community of 15,000-16,000 people. It's going to include an area for active seniors, another surface that will just be for replacing what we have, a new curling club. It is just a real good center.

"We're hoping to start in the spring, so we're probably looking at 18 months before we have an ice surface, but it is tremendous. This whole experience has been tremendous for community spirit and proved critical for getting that complex off the ground."

Faulk focused on helping Hurricanes make playoffs continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk is accustomed to strong starts and even stronger finishes.

In his first international appearance for the United States as an 18-year-old, Faulk scored the game-winning goal to give the Americans the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF U-18 World Championship.

A year later, as a freshman at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Faulk played a key role in the Bulldogs' run to their first NCAA championship. That summer, the Hurricanes, who had selected Faulk in the second round (No. 37) in the 2010 NHL Draft, signed him to a three-year entry-level contract. Again, Faulk announced himself immediately, scoring 22 points in 66 games in 2011-12.

In 2013-14, his third season in the NHL, Faulk posted career highs in games (76), assists (27) and points (32), and ranked 22nd among defensemen in even-strength points (20). In February, his stellar play was rewarded with a place on the U.S. team that finished fourth at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. A month later, he signed a six-year, $29 million contract extension to stay with Carolina through 2019-20.

Despite being a gold medalist, an Olympian and a multimillionaire before most people his age graduate college, the 22-year-old is not content with a bright start to his NHL career. For Faulk, it's all about how you finish.

"I haven't made the Stanley Cup [Playoffs]," Faulk told the Raleigh News & Observer in August. "It's tough to go home knowing you didn't make it, that you fell short. I mean, there's only one team that wins each year, but you've got to make the playoffs."

"It's been three years for me, and I know it's been five years for a few guys here. With most of us coming back, we all have that same goal to get there and see what you can do."

Faulk knows the Hurricanes will need a big year from him if they hope to break their five-season postseason drought. Along with Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy, Faulk is part of a promising young core in Carolina.

"We obviously know it's there, with a lot of young guys," Faulk said. "But we also want to be guys who are relied on who end up becoming the leaders on the team, whether it's just with work ethic or production or whatever it might be. I don't think there's anything wrong with a situation where we're thought of as the core of the team."

Though Faulk is just a year older than Murphy, he has played three times as many NHL games. The two are close friends and vacationed together in the Bahamas this offseason, but Faulk also serves as mentor to his fellow defenseman.

"We get along well," Faulk said. "I kind of help him out a little bit getting used to things, since I have a little bit of a bigger presence in the locker room than some of the newer guys. He comes to me with questions once in a while and I make sure I do everything I can to help him out as a player."

Justin Faulk

Defense - CAR

GOALS: 5 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 32

SOG: 152 | +/-: -9

In terms of Faulk's own development, there is still room for growth. Despite leading Hurricanes defensemen in shots in 2013-14, Faulk was limited to five goals. His 3.3 shooting percentage was the lowest among the team's regulars. His stellar even-strength production did not bleed into the power play, as he posted eight points on an impotent extra-man unit. In many ways, Faulk's season -- he had three assists and a minus-5 rating in a 12-game stretch following the Olympics -- mirrored the Hurricanes' larger inconsistencies.

New coach Bill Peters, who has plenty of experience molding young players and defensemen, is looking forward to helping Faulk reach the next level as a player and a teammate.

"I think he's just scratching the surface," Peters said. "There's a little bit more he can do with the puck, a little more he can do on the power play, and those are areas we want to be better in. Again, here's a young guy we want in the rush, want part of our power play whether it's the first or second unit, and a guy we have really high expectations for."

Faulk returned to Raleigh early, in mid-August, to make sure he was getting into peak condition ahead of training camp. After all, he's got a reputation for fast starts to uphold. Now he's got his sights set on an even stronger finish in 2014-15.

"There's no better experience than winning," Faulk said. "Just kind of having that drive in my head to get back to that stage where you're winning games in whatever League it might be -- World Championships, Olympics, whatever -- that's what makes players good."

Bernier hoping to lead Maple Leafs back to playoffs continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Despite setting career highs in games, wins and saves in his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs after five with the Los Angeles Kings, goalie Jonathan Bernier knows how his 2013-14 campaign will mostly be remembered.

He struggled with injuries late in the season and Toronto lost 12 of its final 14 games to fall out of the race for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We've just got to learn from it, move on. I think as a group we'll be stronger with the way we ended our season," Bernier said. "I think I was a lot more tired at the beginning of the season. [In Los Angeles], I wasn't playing that many games. But it was really good to get back in that game mode."

Bernier had good reason to be tired. Despite his injuries, the 1,787 shots he faced ranked seventh in the League. He finished the season 26-19-7 with a .923 save percentage and a 2.68 goals against average.

Playing behind a roster that allowed an NHL-worst 35.9 shots per game, the highest team average in 21 years, Bernier made 40 or more saves 10 times in 55 games. Toronto's collapse began immediately after Bernier sustained a leg injury against his former team March 13, but his play had already slipped a little from the high standard he set earlier in the season.

From the end of the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics until the end of the season, backup James Reimer actually had a better save percentage (.909) than Bernier (.904) in nearly the same amount of minutes played.

When Brendan Shanahan took over as Toronto's president and reconfigured the Maple Leafs front office and coaching staff, he did so with the intention of decreasing the number of shots the team allowed. Bernier is welcoming that change.

"Coming from a team in L.A. where you get 20 shots a game almost average, that's how you win. You might get away [with it] in the season, but once you get close to the playoffs and get in the playoffs, you definitely have to play better defensively," Bernier said. "It's something we all know we need to be better at. But I think with the new players, I think we'll definitely be a stronger team."

Toronto added a number of players this offseason, but Bernier is most anticipating the arrival of Roman Polak and Stephane Robidas, veteran defensemen he believes can strengthen the Maple Leafs blue line.

Their presence won't be the only welcome change for Bernier. For the first time in his career, he will enter the season with an inside track on the starting goaltending spot. After years of battling Jonathan Quick for playing time in Los Angeles before engaging in a goaltending competition with Reimer last season, the starting job should be Bernier's to lose.

"He earned the opportunity to get the start and you cannot dispute that his record speaks for itself," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "[Bernier] is a guy who came in here and provided a real steadying influence in the net for us, but again we always have went along the lines of you're going to need two capable NHL goaltenders to have success. Both of them are going to have to win the net."

Even with the Maple Leafs out of the playoffs, Bernier still got to experience a postseason atmosphere in Toronto. A basketball fan since his days in Los Angeles, Bernier dove head first into the mania surrounding the Toronto Raptors' first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA Playoffs. Although he had to miss the deciding seventh game, he was a fixture at the series, even attending games in Brooklyn and getting to meet team ambassador/rap superstar Drake.

Despite his former Kings teammates making a run to another Stanley Cup title, Bernier wasn't watching playoff hockey. He was all about Toronto basketball. And even though the Raptors lost 104-103 to Brooklyn in Game 7, Bernier was impressed by how fans embraced the team during the playoffs.

He's hoping to see the same for the Maple Leafs this season.

"When the Raptors got into the playoffs, it was a different vibe. Everyone was talking about it. All the Raptors fans were pretty excited about it," Bernier said. "You get really excited and you wish that was ice instead of the court and you'd be on the ice. That just gets you that extra motivation when you see that excitement in the city."

Fast start, physical play keys to Hurricanes' success continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

After seeing their team miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past five seasons, Carolina Hurricanes fans will settle for no less than a return to the postseason in 2014-15.

Bill Peters, who enters his first season as an NHL coach after three spent assisting Mike Babcock and the Detroit Red Wings, is right there with them. Peters said a playoff appearance would require consistent effort, mental toughness and a will to win. Now it's up to Peters and his staff to infuse the Hurricanes, a team largely unchanged from the one which finished last season 13th in the Eastern Conference, with these qualities.

As training camp gives way to the regular season, here are three keys for the Hurricanes entering the season:

1. Offensive efficiency across all situations -- In 2013-14, the Hurricanes were 22nd in goals per game (2.50). They struggled to score early (27th in first-period goals) and late, carrying a .350 winning percentage in games that went to overtime or a shootout. The Hurricanes trailed after the first period in 29 games, including 12 at home. Most concerning, though, was their 14.6 percent power-play conversion rate, which ranked 28th in the League.

Peters is looking to shuffle lines in training camp and early in the season to identify which players have chemistry. He is counting on expensive top-line talent like Alexander Semin, Jiri Tlusty and Eric Staal to return to form, and for young players including Elias Lindholm and defenseman Ryan Murphy to have a larger presence at even strength and on the power play.

"I know the principles we're going to have on the power play," Peters said. "We want to shoot the puck, we want to have a good retrieval program, we want to be aggressive and we want pucks and bodies to the net. So we have a good idea of how we want to play, now we need to find the guys who have chemistry together and get on the same page."

2. Playing physically, but intelligently -- For the past few seasons, Carolina has been one of the softer teams in the League. They take few penalties and participate in relatively few fights. The Hurricanes' two depth forward additions this offseason, Jay McClement and Brad Malone, add an element of physicality, but Peters said he wanted more of an edge up and down the lineup.

"We want to be physical on the forecheck, be physical upon arrival," Peters said. "We want to be physical in the D-zone so we can win our battles and be efficient in breaking the puck out of our zone. You don't have to be a big guy to be physical. That's what we can do, get in with speed and work ethic and play hard throughout the lineup."

Alexander Semin

Right Wing - CAR

GOALS: 22 | ASST: 20 | PTS: 42

SOG: 210 | +/-: 1

3. Getting off to a fast start -- Last season, Carolina got off to a 4-7-3 start. Semin, Tlusty and Staal did not enter the season fully healthy, and the goalie tandem of Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin was shelved due to injury early and often. By mid-November, the Hurricanes were already chasing most of the Eastern Conference.

This season, reports from Carolina say Semin's problematic wrist is fully healed, Staal's core-muscle surgery in July went off without a hitch, and Ward and Khudobin will enter camp healthy and with confidence. Best of all, Carolina's core group -- Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, Lindholm and Murphy -- come in with another season of NHL experience under their belts.

"The preseason for this organization right now is huge, with new management, new coaches and a few new players and players looking to bounce back," Peters said. "We do not want to get off to a slow start to the regular season. We do not want to be chasing a playoff spot. We want to get off to a good start, and maintain it."

Puck possession major starting point for Maple Leafs continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Changes at the top of the organization, on the coaching staff, to the roster, and in the team's overall philosophy have highlighted a busy summer for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

However, to change the results on the ice the Maple Leafs will have to do almost a complete 180 from last season. They need to specifically be better in the following three areas:

1. Hold onto the puck -- The Maple Leafs can't be a one-and-done rush team. They fooled themselves into thinking they could survive that way last season. Eventually shots, even the ones from the outside, have a way of going in. Eventually your good fortune in the offensive zone runs out.

Toronto lost 12 of its final 14 games, including eight in a row from March 16-29, to tumble out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. It allowed an NHL-high 35.9 shots on goal per game.

The good news is coach Randy Carlyle seems amenable to the changes going on around him. He said the Maple Leafs need to be better at establishing a cycle and at grinding teams down with a driving forecheck. He wants them to attack and sustain, not attack and recycle back after one failed attempt.

The Maple Leafs have to cut down on the number of shots they allowed last season. They need to take pressure off their goalies, in particular Jonathan Bernier, who didn't have much left in his tank at the end of last season as he faced an average of 32.4 shots on goal per game.

2. Extend Gardiner's leash -- Defenseman Jake Gardiner is a burgeoning force as a smooth-skating, attacking defenseman. He played approximately 21 minutes per game last season, including a team-high 18:10 per game at even strength, and delivered with 31 points, 14 points in his final 18 games.

However, Gardiner, arguably the Maple Leafs' best offensive-defenseman, trailed Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson in power-play ice time and rarely played in shorthanded situations, averaging only 37 seconds per game on the penalty kill.

Carlyle said he thinks Gardiner is ready for the next step. The higher-ups in the organization clearly believe in him or they wouldn't have signed him to a five-year, $20.25 million contract this past summer. Now the Maple Leafs have to give him some more freedom and ice time.

Gardiner should play more on the power play than he did last season (2:16 per game). He should play more 5-on-5 minutes too, because at least last season the Maple Leafs had the puck more and attempted more shots when he was on the ice compared to when he was off it.

3. Find more scoring options -- Toronto had six forwards with 44 or more points last season -- only the Boston Bruins had more (seven). However, the Maple Leafs' next highest scoring forward was Nikolai Kulemin with 20 points. There was no in-between. The top six produced and the bottom six was barely a threat.

Carlyle thinks Toronto can have more scoring balance this season with a deeper group of forwards featuring Daniel Winnik, David Booth, Petri Kontiola, Mike Santorelli and Leo Komarov joining Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri and David Clarkson.

Out of that group Carlyle wants to identify three scoring lines that can be interchangeable and productive. It'll be easier to do that if Clarkson becomes the forward the Maple Leafs thought he would be for them when he signed a seven-year, $37.25 million contract in the summer of 2013.

Kontiola is another wild card, because while he's scored in the Finnish Elite League and for Finland at international tournaments, he's never done it in the NHL. Booth hasn't been a reliable scoring threat in at least two seasons. Komarov has nine points in 42 career NHL games.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Training camp is open, and Alain Vigneault is ready to go

Here’s my story from The Journal News and

By Rick Carpiniello

GREENBURGH – Alain Vigneault looked tanned, rested and ready to go Thursday. The Rangers’ coach had a short summer due to the team’s surprise trip to the Stanley Cup Final, which ended in mid-June.

Vigneault had better be rested, because he’s got some work to do as the team hits the ice to open training camp Friday at MSG Training Center.

He’s got to name a new captain, and maybe some new alternate captains — which he said he would do before the regular season begins — and he’s got to fill holes left by the departures of Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and Benoit Pouliot via free agency, and Derek Dorsett via trade.Rangers Report old logo

Working in Vigneault’s favor is the lack of complications — at the moment — in training camp. For two of the last three seasons, the Rangers played all of their preseason games on the road and opened the season with long trips. The other training camp started in January due to the NHL lockout.

Vigneault’s short summer isn’t as short as last summer, when he was hired in June and had to endure the lengthy road trips and an ill-advised minicamp in Banff, Alberta, while trying to familiarize himself with a new team and a new city.

Also, Vigneault has some experience with this. He went to the Stanley Cup Final with Vancouver in 2011, then won just one playoff game after winning the Presidents’ Trophy in 2012. Following up the success of last spring won’t be easy.

“You have to turn the page on what’s happened in the past and focus on the now,” he said. “Our focus for our group right now has to be on training camp and the different goals we want to establish during training camp — the conditioning, getting on the same page as far as our systems and our style of play, and obviously coming together as a group. Probably the most important part right now is to pick our team.”

Vigneault thinks he’s more ready for the challenge of “the season after.”

“I remember coming back (in 2011-12 with) Vancouver at this time, and I was still exhausted,” he said. “I remember coming to camp and looking at how I felt internally and how my players felt, and it wasn’t the same as the year before.

“This year, it took me two or three weeks to (say), ‘I’m back,’ and for the last three weeks to a month, I’ve been chomping at the bits to get back at it. From all my (returning) players, I’m getting the same response.”

Vigneault probably knows who his captain will be: Ryan McDonagh. The coach might want more than two alternates. But he certainly wants the leaders to establish themselves in camp.

The captain, Vigneault said, “has to have the power to influence players in the right direction by example, by the way he conducts himself. He also obviously has to be able to regroup the troops. And he is an extension, with his assistants, of the coaching staff.

“The core values and the standards that we’re trying to establish, when (the coaches are) not in the room, they’re the ones that are pushing that, making sure everybody on our team does it the right way.”

It starts Friday.

Twitter: @RangersReport

Back to work

The Rangers invited 63 players to training camp, which starts Friday at MSG Training Center in Greenburgh. Twenty-two of the invitees represented the Rangers at the 2014 Traverse City Tournament. The players will begin on-ice activities at 10 a.m.

First preseason game: Monday, 7 p.m., vs. the Devils at Madison Square Garden

First regular-season game: Oct. 9, 8 p.m., at St. Louis

Photo by the Associated Press.