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Anton Forsberg's Opportunity (Rotoworld)
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 13:52:00 PST)
Dadoun talks about him and more in this week's Waiver Wired report.

Brian Elliott's All-Star journey from a Caribbean beach to the NHL's best-on-best in Columbus (Yahoo Sports)
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:21:11 PST)
St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott didn't hesitate to leave the Turks and Caicos Islands when he got the call that he was a added as a replacement to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus.

NHL All-Star Skills Competition players announced; who wins? (Puck Daddy)
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 10:08:22 PST)
Team Foligno and Team Toews have selected their competitors for the Saturday night Skills Competition, scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Who wins? Check out the field. Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater Event description: Four players from each team will test their speed,  facing off against an opponent in a two-skater race. The race track is the  entire outside border of the ice. Timing devices will record each skater to  determine who is the fastest. If a race ends in a tie, each of the teams  will be awarded one point. If, at the completion of the event, the skaters  who tied have the fastest overall time, the skaters will race again to  determine which team receives the bonus point. Five team points are  available. The winner of each match-up scores one point; the team with the  fastest skater scores one bonus point. Team Foligno Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning Jiri Sekac, Montreal Canadiens Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres Team Toews Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers Vladamir Taresenko, St. Louis Blues Favorite: Seguin can flat-out fly. Darkhorse: This event favors young legs; it wouldn’t be a shock to see Drouin skate away with it. *** Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge Event description: A test of creativity a player can insert into a  breakaway, three shooters and one goaltender from each team will  participate. Columbus' Ryan Johansen was selected by fans to participate in  this event in an online vote. Each skater will attempt three shots. NHL  penalty shot rules do not apply. Fans in-arena and watching on television  will be able to vote for their favorite player on Twitter by casting their  vote using the hashtag that corresponds to the player of their choice. The  shooter with the highest fan vote will score one point for his team. Team Foligno Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues (goalie) Team Toews Vladimir Taresenko, St. Louis Blues Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks (goalie) Favorite: The fan vote favors local boy Johansen, Ovechkin and Taresenko. Darkhorse: NHL leading scorer Voracek will still get lots of local love. *** DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting Event description: Four players from each team will compete, with two  additional players serving as passers. This event will consist of four  head-to-head match-ups, one shooter from each team per round. The goal is  to hit four 15-inch diameter targets located in each corner of the net. The  teams will be situated at opposite ends of the rink, and will alternate  shot attempts. The first shooter to hit all four targets wins. Five team  points are available. The winner of each match-up scores one point; the  player who hits all four targets in the fastest time scores the bonus  point. Team Foligno Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers (passer) Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (passer) Team Toews   Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins John Tavares, New York Islanders Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks Rick Nash, New York Rangers (passer) Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils (passer) Favorite: Team Toews has some great snipers, including the captain, who is still seeking to win the even for the first time. *** Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay Event description: This timed relay event – involving 14 skaters and one  goalie from each team – will consist of five challenges: One-Timers, with  three shooters and one passer per team; Passing, with one passer per team;  Puck Control, with one skater per team; Stick-Handling, with one skater per  team; and Goalie Goals, with one goalie per team. Each challenge must be  completed before moving on to the next one. The goal is to finish all five  challenges faster than the opponent. Three team points are available. The  team with the fastest time in each heat scores one point; the team with the  fastest overall time scores one bonus point.

Several top NHL All-Stars absent, but 9 Americans on hand (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:59:50 PST)
Some of the best players in the world - Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and anybody wearing a Detroit Red Wings or Colorado Avalanche jersey - will be absent from the NHL All-Star game on Sunday. It's the largest red, white and blue contingent since the NHL went to this format in 2003. ''That upsurge has been there,'' said Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette, born in Norwood, Massachusetts, who will serve as a head coach in the annual goal-fest held for the first time this year in Ohio's capital city.

Captain Nick Foligno waits for bribes, ‘happy I can’t screw this draft up’ (Puck Daddy)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:50:49 PST)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 2015 NHL All-Star Game marks the first time Nick Foligno will have captained a team, having previously only served as an alternate captain during his junior hockey days.  “It’s about time!” he said.  “Don’t write that.” Too late, what with it being Media Day and all. With the All-Star Game captaincy comes great responsibility, obviously. You’re the face of your team, because your name is literally the team’s name. You answer all the inane questions from media about the skills competition and the all-star draft. And your face is plastered on the side of the arena and the front of the official hotel, greeting fans. “Sorry for everyone that has to look at that,” said Foligno. He may never have been an actual captain, but Foligno seems born to be one in the All-Star Game. The Columbus Blue Jackets forward obviously lucked into the gig, with the NHL needing a local representative to captain one of the teams. But the charming, light-hearted, happy-to-here temperament perfectly fits the job description – to make this thing fun. “It’s a pinch-yourself moment,” he said. “I’m proud of it. Worked hard for that recognition. But I didn’t dream for this to happen. I’m just really excited about being around these guys.” Foligno said he hadn’t formulated a draft strategy yet, and planned to consult his alternate captains before the Friday NHL Fantasy Draft event. “I don’t really have one yet. I have to talk to [Patrick] Kane and [Drew] Doughty for sure. But I’m happy I can’t screw this draft up. I can’t pick a bad player,” he said. What he can do is help influence the last pick in the draft, who gets a car for their embarrassment. Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators has been actively lobbying not to be that pick, saying “I really don’t want a Kia.” To the surprise of no one, Ryan has already offered Foligno a bribe. “I still think everyone’s pride doesn’t want to go last,” said Foligno. “Bobby Ryan already made some pitches. I haven’t been offered dinner yet.” Not even from Blue Jackets teammate Ryan Johansen? “Nothing from Jo. Apparently he thinks our friendship is so tight that he doesn’t have to offer me anything,” he said. But if things don’t work out and Team Toews takes Johansen, there’s always the possibility of a trade, which the NHL reminded Foligno he can do. “I was like ‘who do I want to trade and why?’“ he said. “I was wondering if Gary Bettman would come out of nowhere and say ‘We have a trade to announce!’” If Foligno picks the right players and assembles a winning team, could a step up to management be next? More to the point: Could he ask Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen to let him run the team’s draft table this June? “I’d hope it,” he said, laughing. “But I doubt it.”

Are NHL stars cool with World Cup Young Guns, Euro Stars format? (Puck Daddy)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 12:46:03 PST)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The NHL will announce this weekend that the World Cup of Hockey is being resurrected, but with an unprecedented and controversial twist to the format. Canada, the U.S., Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic will have NHL player-packed teams in the tournament. But the League has reportedly opted to fill the last two spots with a “Young Guns” team of 23-years-old-and-under North American players and a “European All-Star” team made up of players from orphan countries.  Young Americans. Young Canadians. Working together to defeat their idols from the U.S. and Canada in a World Cup tournament. If there was one word shared by most NHL All-Stars in Columbus when asked about that World Cup format, it would be “awkward.” “I don’t think Canadians like to play with Americans too much. I don’t know how that’d work,” joked Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, with more than an element of truth. “But you’re there to win games. I don’t think it’d be an issue.” “It would be a little …. Different. But you play against these guys all the time,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers. “Still, seeing the Canadian logo coming at you all the time would be a little weird.” Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators, who has represented the U.S. internationally in three tournaments, couldn’t quite wrap his head around the notion of setting aside national pride for three periods were he young enough to play for the North American team. “When the U.S. is playing against that Pan-American team, or the Young Guns team, that would be interesting to see,” he said. “If you lost, inside you might say ‘well, at least U.S.A. got a couple of points out of it. It’s going to be a weird thing for those kids. But that Young Guns thing will take on a life of its own.” EUROPEAN PRIDE OR DISRESPECT? Anze Kopitar rolled his eyes. After about a dozen questions from a dozen different reporters about the World Cup format, it’s understandable. This “rest of the world” team was practically invented for a player like Kopitar, an elite talent from the Los Angeles Kings who starred for his home nation of Slovenia in the Sochi Olympics.  But Slovenia couldn't support a World Cup team, and Kopitar would be off that major stage for the NHL. “For selfish reasons now, it would be cool to part of that,” he said. “There are a lot of good players coming from Switzerland and Slovakia.” Those two nations are on different tracks at the moment. Slovakia has seen its NHL player numbers dwindle, as well as participation numbers slip.  "`I would say if it was 10 years ago it would be upsetting because 10 years ago we had a lot of guys in the NHL. Right now, we got maybe 12. So that would be tough to make a team out of 12 guys," said Jaroslav Halak, Slovakian born goalie for the New York Islanders. "Obviously you need 20. It will be different to see [the rest of Euro all-star team] but at the same time I’m open to it. It would be nice to play with some other players from different countries.’’ Switzerland's national team has made huge strides in competing in world championships and the Olympics. “They’ve proven every year that they’re a country that can steal games, compete,” said Ryan. So the question becomes whether it hurts the tournament, and the game’s growth internationally, to buck the tradition of previous tournament by eschewing national teams like Switzerland for two all-star squads. “Would it be better for the actual country? Probably, yeah,” said Kopitar, who witnessed the ripple effect of Slovenia’s run through his country’s hockey community. “They have an argument to be there,” said Ryan. “But if it’s being held in the U.S. or Canada, it makes sense to have more players that are from there.” Mark Streit, the Swiss-born Philadelphia Flyers defenseman, blasted the format recently in the Cherry Hill Courier-Post . "I don't like it at all. Not one thing about it," Streit said. "It's a nations tournament. You love playing for your country." Would European players without a nation care about the World Cup? Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres believes they would. “It’s awesome. It would be a little bit different, having random countries together, but it would increase the level of hockey there,” said the Latvian All-Star vote leader. “It would be sweet to go after the big countries.” But what anthem will they play if the Euro teams win gold? “That’s a good question. I didn’t really think that far,” said Girgensons. “Flip a coin maybe.” THE LITTLE KIDS TABLE Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning thought back to when he was a 22-year-old star. What would it have been like to be a Canadian, trying to defeat Canada, alongside American players. “That would be pretty intimidating. I don’t know how I’d feel about that game. Whether I’d be cheering for them to win or our team to win,” he said. Stamkos’s issue with the format is one a few elite young players are likely to share. Nathan MacKinnon, the brilliant 19-year-old for the Colorado Avalanche, could be a player Team Canada would want on its roster. But given his age, he’s be placed on the Young Guns – even if it’s every kid’s dream to represent his nation. “You want to be on the Team Canada team,” said Stamkos, who has yet to do so in the Olympics. So playing for the Young Stars is a bit like sitting at the kid’s table on Thanksgiving. “Maybe that’s what they want it to feel like. The underdog. The young kids story,” wondered Stamkos. The other word we heard from the NHL All-Stars about the Young Guns team was “underdog,” and that’s important to remember. The NHL doesn’t benefit if Roman Wick or Martin Plüss scores a huge goal in the World Cup to upset Canada or the U.S., because those guys don’t play in the NHL. But if, say, it’s Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning … “Beating Canada would upset a couple people if that would happen,” said the 19-year-old winger. “But if you score a big goal, maybe you get elevated a bit as a star.” It’s a chance for the next generation to get one over on the current one, or for European players from burgeoning (or struggling) hockey nations to take out a superpower. Everyone loves an underdog. And despite being filled with NHL players rather than Swiss or Slovaks, these all-star World Cup teams would still be underdogs. “As a U.S. guy, if you think back to the Miracle On Ice, that stuff only happens when you have those opportunities,” said St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. “The young guys will play their hearts out. Hockey players have pride no matter what.” MORE YAHOO HOCKEY

Murray likely to step aside in Ottawa; player chemistry illustrated; Penner's back, sorta (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 10:55:48 PST)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media

Sarnia Sting sold to Derian Hatcher and David Legwand, who vow 'hands-on' approach (Buzzing The Net)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 10:09:11 PST)


Fantasy Hockey: Why picking up Scott Gomez isn't a bad idea (Puck Daddy)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:12:56 PST)
Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website   DobberHockey   back in 2005 and has been Puck Daddy's resident fantasy hockey 'expert' since 2009. By this point you've heard all the jokes about the Toronto Maple Leafs and their inability to score - the goal judge/Maytag repairman comparable; the red light bulb company going bankrupt for lack of sales; etc., etc. But the team is actually still sixth in the league in goals scored. Of course, that was pretty much entirely during the Randy Carlyle era, but let's not go there. Heading into the All-Star break, the Leafs still hold the top spot for most productive line combo by a pretty wide margin. While that does speak to the chemistry of Tyler Bozak/Phil Kessel/James van Riemsdyk, it also speaks to a certain stubbornness. As in - the refusal to mix up the scoring lines. Why mess around with what's working, right? Except…it's not working. Coming out of the break, it won't be just fantasy owners making some adjustments for the stretch run. We'll see if any of these top line combos get broken up. Courtesy of Frozen Pool …

Dose: Limping into the Break (Rotoworld)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 00:36:00 PST)
The last night of NHL games only added to the list of All-Star invitees who won't be going to Columbus this weekend in Thursday's Hockey Dose.

Karlsson scores 2 goals, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 20:39:17 PST)
The Toronto Maple Leafs fought hard through the final two periods. It was the opening frame against the Ottawa Senators that ultimately did them in. ''I scratch my head when I talk about that first period again,'' Maple Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek said. ''We wanted to play more like we played in the second and third period and come out with some energy and put more pucks to the net and create more chances, but it's a strange situation so we've got to correct that for sure.'' Toronto, 1-7 under Horachek, has just three wins in its last 17 games.

Nick Foligno gets famous: From unknown NHLer to All-Star Game captain (Yahoo Sports)
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:24:10 PST)
Columbus Blue Jackets' Nick Foligno is in the midst of his best NHL season, but he still can't believe he was named a captain for the All-Star Game.

Cause of Toronto's woes; Jack Capuano deserves more credit (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 12:14:28 PST)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

Fantasy top 60 'D': Klingberg starring for Dallas (NHL)
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 10:04:00 PST)
Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with in-depth defensemen analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer will be your go-to guy for fantasy blue line advice all season long.

NHL Three Stars: Overtime heroes and Ovechkin breaks camera (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 20 Jan 2015 22:21:32 PST)
No. 1 Star: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens   The Habs goalie made 36 saves in their 2-1 overtime win over the Nashville Predators, on a P.K. Subban power-play goal. That includes 27 saves in the first two periods as Montreal was limited to 13 shots. No. 2 Star:  Carl Hagelin, New York Rangers Hagelin’s deflection of a Derek Stepan puck directed at Craig Anderson gave the Rangers a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. He also assisted on Kevin Hayes’ second-period goal.   No. 3 Star: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers Giroux potted the power-play game-winner for the Flyers at 3:57 of overtime, converting a Jakub Voracek rebounded shot (and strange missing puck moment in Thomas Greiss’s gear) for a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Giroux also led the Flyers with 10 shots. Honorable Mention: Nice rally from the Edmonton Oilers, who scored two goals in the last 4:11 of the game to send it to a shootout vs. the Washington Capitals. Goals by Derek Roy and Teddy Purcell won it there, 5-4. Alex Ovechkin had two goals. … Pavel Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist scored in the shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild. Teemu Pulkkinen scored his first NHL goal. Zach Parise had two for the Wild. … Valtteri Flippula scored a goal and assisted on another in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. … Andrew Shaw had two goals and Patrick Kane had a goal (No. 200) and two assists in the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-1 rout of the Arizona Coyotes. … Loui Eriksson scored against his former mates while Dougie Hamilton had a goal and an assist in the Boston Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars. Did You Know? Alex Ovechkin broke a camera. Dishonorable Mention: Zac Rinaldo was ejected for a hit from behind on Kris Letang. He’ll have an in-person hearing with the NHL. … Zach Sill and Michael Raffl, Jakub Voracek and Rob Scuderi, Steven Downie and Luke Schenn, and Pierre-Edouard Bellmare and Bobby Farnham all dropped the gloves. ... The Red Wings blew a 4-1 lead in the third period. … Vancouver and Tampa Bay were a combined 0-fo-12 on the power play. … Daniel Sedin was a minus-4, and Henrik Sedin was a minus-3. … David Moss, Brandon McMillian and Kyle Chipchura were minus-3. … Tyler Seguin vs. the Bruins: Nine shots, no points and a minus-1.                                                                                                                                                   

Maple Leafs-Senators Preview (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 20 Jan 2015 21:39:05 PST)
Firing a coach and a change in philosophy haven't helped improve the Toronto Maple Leafs' fortunes, but a meeting with the Ottawa Senators seemingly provides a good opportunity. Coach Peter Horachek is looking for a better start Wednesday night as the Maple Leafs try to end their longest slide of the season by continuing their dominance of the Senators before entering the All-Star break. Toronto (22-22-3) has lost 13 of 16 games, a stretch that cost Randy Carlyle his job earlier this month. Issues were everywhere Monday, when they fell 4-1 to Carolina after giving up the first three goals - two in the first period - to prompt one fan to throw a jersey on the ice, the third such incident in Toronto this season.

Hagelin's OT goal lifts Rangers over Senators 3-2 (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 20 Jan 2015 20:47:22 PST)
The New York Rangers' latest victory was hardly a masterpiece, until the final second. A quick glance between Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan produced the winning goal on New York's only shot of overtime. Hagelin deflected in Stepan's slick backhand pass at 2:55 to give the Rangers a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. ''The whole game was sluggish from our part,'' Hagelin said.

Lightning lose Matt Carle for up to two months (Puck Daddy)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 16:12:41 PST)
The Tampa Bay Lightning held their first family fan carnival on Sunday, which was goofy fun for all, especially if you like playing NHL coaches in ice air hockey . It was a nice break from the sometimes grim realities of the regular season.  On Monday, it was time to deal with the aforementioned grim realities: Matt Carle, one of the team’s most important defenseman, was told by a specialist that his torn abductor muscle in his abdomen will require surgery, putting him on the shelf for 6-8 weeks. He saw  his streak of 347 consecutive regular season games played on Saturday. Carle is averaging 20:34 in average ice time this season in 46 games, ranking behind only the top pairing of Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman. He kills penalties and sees a bit of power-play time. He helps drive possession (55.2 percent Corsi at 5-on-5) on one of the better possession teams in the game. So that’s Carle down for two months and Radko Gudas and his beard are out for the rest of the regular season after knee surgery. The first option for the Lightning will be to fill the void with a combination of Luke Witkowski and Nikita Nesterov. But as Eric Erlendsson reports , GM Steve Yzerman has been on the lookout for a defenseman since December. That doesn’t mean a deal is immediate, but it does mean the gears are in motion for one. Knowing Yzerman, it won’t be a tweak; it’ll be substantial. Zbynek Michalek of the Arizona Coyotes, Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils (if he ever plays again), Marc Methot of the Ottawa Senators and Andrej Sekera of the Carolina Hurricanes are all pending UFAs on also-ran teams, for the record. And then there’s that whole Jeff Petry thing with the Edmonton Oilers…

Senators-Rangers Preview (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 15:53:05 PST)
Just after Rick Nash rediscovered his scoring touch to help the New York Rangers get back on track offensively, keeping it going could be tough with Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators coming to Madison Square Garden. New York seeks its third straight victory and 16th in 19 games Tuesday night when it tries to avoid an eighth consecutive regular-season home loss to the Senators. Nash scored three times over a five-game winning streak in which the Rangers averaged 4.4 goals from Dec. 31-Jan. 10. The All-Star left wing bounced back Sunday with his fifth multigoal game in a 5-2 win at Pittsburgh, moving into a tie with Dallas' Tyler Seguin for the league lead with 28 goals.

Fantasy All-Access: Second-half stars to watch (NHL)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:00:00 PST)
Every Monday, NHL.com contributor Matt Sitkoff identifies waiver wire pickups, roster trends, schedule notes and a prospect to watch in fantasy hockey.

Streit on a Streak (Rotoworld)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 09:05:00 PST)
Mark Streit has been hot on the power play in the last two weeks. Read more in the Power Play Report.

What We Learned: Did Marc Staal deserve his new NY Rangers deal? (Puck Daddy)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 06:58:00 PST)
(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.) Hockey continues to have a weird fetish for defensive defensemen, and it's a market inefficiency that's difficult to understand. Remember this summer when Brooks Orpik signed that five-year deal with Washington that would inexplicably pay him $5.5 million per? And how everyone laughed? Those contracts are handed out more frequently than you think. Such is the case with Marc Staal, who signed a 6-year, $34.2-million deal with the New York Rangers on Sunday. Now, Staal isn't exactly Brooks Orpik-level ineffective at driving play — and Washington fans are learning to their chagrin just how much tread has come off the tire for this man who will turn 35 in September and still have four years left of hefty paychecks coming his way — but he's not as far off the pace as you might expect, either. The Rangers as a whole seem to overvalue grit and toughness, which explains why Tanner Glass has played rather a healthy portion of their games this season despite the fact that he's one of the worst players in the NHL and his only value comes in the form of his waning pugilistic prowess. Staal does more than that, obviously, but his actual on-ice value is not, unfortunately, what it's perceived to be. But why the rush on this deal? Why now? Well, apart from concerns that he might bolt elsewhere — say, Carolina — Larry Brooks says it might have something to do with the quality of his play over the last six weeks or so, during which time he has posted positive possession and goals-for numbers (though negative when compared to what his team has done while he's off the ice) and hasn't given up a ton of scoring chances despite eating the most minutes of any Blueshirt blue liner. And as those who watch the NHL regularly well know, teams love buying as high as possible on guys whose contributions are primarily judged using the eye test. Consequently, the thing is that this stands in stark contrast with what he's done for the entirety of the season, and most of the last several years in New York. Not including any of this the weekend's games (to better explain the Rangers' mindset here), there were 59 defensemen in the league that had played at least 700 minutes at even strength, which we can therefore safely categorize as “top-pairing defensemen” — i.e. 30 teams play two defensemen on their top pairing, thus, 60 guys in the league are top-pairing defensemen. Of that group, Staal ranks 18th from the bottom in terms of the corsi quality of competition he faces, which is to say that the 50.5 percent corsi rating opponents have against him is, as far as top-pairing D are concerned, rather poor and comfortably in the bottom third. So why, by that metric or any other metric, would you make him the 15th highest-paid defenseman in the league. Well, some of the names below him in terms of CF% are of note: Shea Weber, Andy Greene, Roman Josi, Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Ryan Suter take up six of the bottom seven spots, with Dion Phaneuf the lone outlier as a guy who probably doesn't deserve that role. Certainly, all these defensemen are well-paid and play what anyone would call very tough competition as far as the eye test goes. Some of them are considered among the best in the league at what they do, despite the fact that — at least in the case of Weber and Josi — viewings of how well they play don't always line up with the numbers. (Sam Page recently broke down why he thinks this is the case with Nashville's top pairing pre- and post-Suter.) A lot of times, these guys' issues can be excused pretty easily. Weber and Josi have trouble turning the puck over and taking it out of the defensive zone with carries, but don't really give up quality chances very often. Giordano and Brodie play on a garbage team and while their CF% is poor, their ratings relative to the rest of the team remain exemplary and have them in very serious contention for the Norris. Suter plays roughly a billion minutes a night. Greene has an awful team in front of him and is basically trying to bail out the Titanic's hull with a candy dish. Phaneuf played for Randy Carlyle. You can do this for most of the guys on the list who aren't pushing the puck in the right direction. But speaking of the eye test, is there any universe in which you'd as an impartial observer would put Staal and Dan Girardi in the same conversation as Weber and Josi or Giordano and Brodie? The answer is no, right? I often wonder how much of a team's deployment of its defense especially is based on capability versus perceived capability. In this case, we'd have to acknowledge that Girardi and Staal are, at best, the second- and third-best defensemen on the Rangers behind legit star defenseman Ryan McDonagh. And yet it's these two who get the toughest assignments by far. Then McDonagh is roughly in the same area (and indeed, suffering a bit of a tough season with worse possession numbers than Staal) if a little back in terms of stringent usage, and the rest of the Rangers' defensemen are being pretty heavily shielded. Why does McDonagh, who we'd all agree is better, get the protection? “Because of his offensive utility,” is likely the answer — you put him on the ice when the puck is in the attacking end because in theory he's more capable of both keeping it there and doing something with it — and because his reputation is not built largely upon his willingness to block shots and “play tough.” But what one has to understand about McDonagh is that in the last four seasons, only this one could be considered an abject failure to this point, in terms of personal on-ice success. And the Rangers still outscore their opponents when he's on the ice this year, albeit barely. Girardi and Staal never outscore their opponents in full seasons. Staal's plus-6 over 21 games in 2013 is the only time either he or his partner has had their heads above water in terms of relative goals-for in that time. And over that entire period, neither drives possession or goalscoring relative to the team (in 250 and 180 games for Girardi and Staal, respectively). This despite the fact that, prior to this year, Staal's most common pairing partner was possession-driving force Anton Stralman; in fact, for many of his most frequent collaborators, Staal serves as a bit of a possession and scoring anchor , which probably shouldn't come as a surprise. The Rangers have invested $11.2 million against the cap to these two defensive defensemen for the next five years — Girardi's will expire the year before Staal's would — whose numbers don't back up the cost. (The Maple Leafs made a similar mistake in extending Dion Phaneuf for big money.) Which is a long time to invest in guys who are going to spend the majority of those contracts on the wrong side of 30. Which brings us back to this six-week window in which Staal has been so effective and, apparently, earned six years of relative contract certainty and a much bigger paycheck. What's gone differently to launch his play to the “next level?” Wouldn't you know it, they've gotten him away from tougher assignments , essentially using and sheltering him like a second-pairing defenseman even if the minutes don't reflect that. Which, yeah, that's going to make you look a lot better. So good you might appear to deserve, say, a 40 percent raise. The problem for the Rangers too is that they clearly didn't feel they have a viable replacement on hand if they let Staal test the market, which is fair enough. You sometimes overpay to insulate yourself from the risk of going without — a lesson Glen Sather learned the hard way this summer when reliable “glue” guys like Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, and Brian Boyle bolted for more money elsewhere because the Rangers couldn't afford to pay them — but part of the issue is that this, in turn, means that you can't spend the money on the players who actually deserve to be paid it. Most of the Rangers' core is locked up, but there will be some hard decisions to make in the next few years, and the Staal and Girardi contracts will probably start to look and feel more and more like particularly cumbersome albatrosses as time goes on. You don't always get what you pay for in the NHL, but it's often because you're buying something you haven't really valued or evaluated properly. What We Learned Anaheim Ducks : Frederik Andersen is being hailed as something of a savior in Anaheim, largely because he has a .925 save percentage and has yet to lose in January. Which will make anyone look good. Arizona Coyotes : Shouldn't of traded Dubnyk . Boston Bruins : This dude obviously didn't get the memo that the Bruins are winning now because of how good David Pastrnak is. Turns out Tuukka Rask is good. Hmmmm. Buffalo Sabres : The Sabres have now lost 11 in a row in regulation and hey wouldn't you know it they're back in 30th in the league. Congratulations, guys. Mission accomplished. Calgary Flames : Joni Ortio has been excellent since his call-up from the AHL and the Flames are riding him for all he's worth. We're talking .953 even after giving up three on 22 to San Jose Saturday night. Much more of this and Karri Ramo's probably going to be on the trading block. Carolina Hurricanes : Speaking of which, it would be nice if Anton Khudobin could continue his strong run of late . He's stopped 105 of the last 111 shots he faced (.946) after starting the year winless in his first 10 starts (when he stopped just .900). Chicago Blackhawks : Good one, Danny. Good one . Hope he's suspended for a good long time here. No reason for a player like him to even be in the league at this point. Colorado Avalanche : Ryan O'Reilly to the Leafs would be quite the coup, for not-the Avs. Especially if Toronto gets Sakic and Roy to take Tyler Bozak off their hands . Columbus Blue Jackets : The state and local government in Columbus are rather wisely using All-Star Weekend as a means of getting NHL owners to think about putting some more of their other businesses in the Columbus area. Yeah but no it totally matters who makes the All-Star Team. Dallas Stars : The Stars scored goals 16 seconds apart early in the third period to make this one academic, even after the Caps cut it to 3-3. Dallas is 10-4-2 in their last 16. Detroit Red Wings : Decent goal from Tomas Tatar for his 20th(!?) of the year. Edmonton Oilers : Man what a great place to play Edmonton must be. Florida Panthers : If one guy is good at playing defense as an 18-year-old, why do we even think most 18-year-old D aren't NHL ready ? Good argument here. Los Angeles Kings : The Kings of this year are the Devils of the last two: They haven't scored on any of their last 22 shootout attempts . Minnesota Wild : Devan Dubnyk isn't a great goalie but he's both playing well right now and better than Niklas Backstrom. And hey what do you know he's helping the Wild beat (bad) teams for once. Montreal Canadiens : Congratulations to the Canadiens on being “ unheralded .” By whom? Tough to say. But they're unheralded despite being one of the best teams in hockey from the start of the season to right now and also being the most mythologized team in league history and also not being very good apart from getting a season and a half's worth of bounces to go the right way. Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team : If the first period on Saturday was any indication, it could be a long couple of weeks until Pekka Rinne's back. New Jersey Devils : You thought things in New Jersey were bad before? Cory Schneider's hurt now, and it might be a concussion or something . Any amount of time he's out is going to be one in which the Devils are even more likely to lose. New York Islanders : The Islanders finally lost on Saturday , 6-4 to the unheralded Canadiens, snapping  a four-game winning streak despite Carey Price being out for the night with an injury. They're still fourth in the league. New York Rangers : Kevin Hayes has been pretty damn good for the Rangers so far this season, 15 points in 39 games in a third-line center role with basically no power play time all season (okay, 5:34). But still, Ottawa Senators : Basically Mika Zibanejad wants to be like Jason Spezza . And by that I assume he means “get the hell out of Ottawa.” Philadelphia Flyers : Facing one of the longest scoring droughts in franchise history? All you gotta do is play the Buffalo Sabres . Club record was 199:43, but the Flyers eked in under the wire when RJ Umberger scored in the second period just 168:50 into the latest streak. Pittsburgh Penguins : The Pens just bought as high as possible in signing Marc-Andre Fleury to a four-year extension . He's playing some of the best hockey of his career right now. Let's get a contingency plan in place, I guess. San Jose Sharks : The Sharks put up just 22 shots on goal — only four in the first, 10 in the second, eight in the third, and none in less than half a minute of overtime — at home against Calgary , so the fact that they even got a point out of the game was probably charitable on the Flames' part. St. Louis Blues : Shout out to Ken Hitchcock, now No. 5 all-time in coaching wins . Dick Irvin is up next and only seven wins away. Tampa Bay Lightning : The stretch pass from Anton Stralman on this Ryan Callahan goal is out of control. Toronto Maple Leafs : Sounds like the Leafs are giving up on the season after this 0-for-4 West Coast trip. They should never have fired Carlyle!!!!!! Vancouver Canucks : Ryan Miller is on two straight shutouts and all he had to do was play Philadelphia and Carolina. What a life goalies in the Metro lead that they get so many games against those teams all the time! Washington Capitals : Hope this bum goes to the KHL soon he never plays defense and he can never learn !!!! Winnipeg Jets : I guess I didn't realize how imperative getting on top of things was going to be for the Jets in the coming offseason. Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, and Michael Frolik will become UFAs after 2015-16. How much do you have to spend to keep them ? Play of the Weekend Yo shout out to Reto Berra. Gold Star Award

NHL-Highlights of Saturday's NHL games
(Sat, 17 Jan 2015 23:42:10 PST)
(Adds late games) Jan 17 (The Sports Xchange) - Highlights of Saturday's National Hockey League games: - - - Red Wings 5, Predators 2 Tomas Tatar had two goals and an assist to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators. The loss snapped Nashville's five-game winning streak. Gustav Nyquist opened the scoring 57 seconds in with the fastest goal to open a game this season for Detroit (25-11-9). Nashville (30-10-4) goaltender Carter Hutton was pulled in favor of Marek Mazanec after allowing three goals on the first four shots. ...

NHL Three Stars: Calvert takes out Bruins; Plekanec's big night (Puck Daddy)
(Sat, 17 Jan 2015 23:37:44 PST)
No. 1 Star: Matt Calvert, Columbus Blue Jackets   The Blue Jackets’ forward took a rough hit from Carl Soderberg, but he scored the game-winning goal and the empty-net dagger in the third period just 2:25 apart. The Jackets defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-1. No. 2 Star: Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens The Habs center scored two goals and added two assists in their impressive 6-4 win over the New York Islanders. He had the secondary helper on a P.K. Subban goal to open the game, and the primary assist on Dale Weise’s goal to make it 2-0. He scored a power-play goal in the second, and then a goal to make it 6-2 in the third. No. 3 Star: Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues Elliott turned back 15 shots in the first period to set the tone, and then 27 for the game in shutting out the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-0. Honorable Mention: The Philadelphia Flyers overcame two goals from Zemgus Girgensons to defeat the Buffalo Sabres, 4-3. Michael Del Zotto had two assists. … Tomas Tatar had two goals and an assist in the Detroit Red Wings’ 5-2 rout of the Nashville Predators. … The Carolina Hurricanes got third-period goals from Justin Faulk and Nathan Gerbe, who also assisted on each others’ goals, to defeat the Ottawa Senators, 3-2. … Nathan MacKinnon earned the Colorado Avalanche a point with a third-period goal at 19:53, but the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ben Bishop won in the shootout, 3-2. … Nail Yakupov had the lone goal in the shootout as Viktor Fasth (35 saves) led the Edmonton Oilers to a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. … Tyler Seguin scored No. 27 and Alex Ovechkin scored No. 25, but it was Antoine Roussel and Jamie Benn that scored in the third to give the Dallas Stars the advantage in a wild 5-4 win over the Washington Capitals. … Devin Dubnyk does it again with 25 saves, as the Minnesota Wild defeat the Arizona Coyotes, 3-1. … The Anaheim Ducks rallied to beat the Los Angeles Kings in a shootout, 3-2, on a Jakob Silfverberg tally. Fredrik Andersen made 26 saves. … Sean Monahan’s goal 24 seconds into overtime gave the Calgary Flames a huge win over the San Jose Sharks, 4-3.   Did You Know? Anaheim is now 22-0-6 in one-goal games. Dishonorable Mention: Carter Hutton was pulled after giving up three goals on four shots in 12:32. ... Patrick Wiercioch and Eric Gryba were a minus-3. … Dallas blew a 3-0 lead. … Keith Yandle was a minus-3. … James van Riemsdyk was a minus-3. … Jaroslav Halak was pulled after gave up six goals on 33 shots and was replaced by Chad Johnson.

Gerbe, Faulk lead Hurricanes to 3-2 win over Senators (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 17 Jan 2015 21:02:23 PST)
Anton Khudobin is finally starting to feel some relief after a long struggle to start his season. Khudobin made 30 saves as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 Saturday night. ''Right now I'm just more relaxed and I don't think about anything I just stop the pucks.'' Nathan Gerbe and Justin Faulk each had a goal and an assist, and Brad Malone also scored for the Hurricanes. Cody Ceci and Mark Stone scored for the Senators, who were unable to get any puck possession in the Carolina zone after pulling Craig Anderson in favor of an extra attacker in the final 2 minutes.

Islanders-Canadiens Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 16 Jan 2015 20:49:39 PST)
If for some reason there were still people doubting the legitimacy of the New York Islanders' rise to the top of the Eastern Conference, their last two games should serve to answer those remaining skeptics. The surging Islanders have been busy making statements lately and a road game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night gives them an opportunity for another. Just reaching the playoffs would've been a good way to send out Nassau Coliseum in the Islanders' last season there before moving to Brooklyn, but the team seems intent on doing much more. With the midpoint of the season having just passed, the Islanders (30-13-1) find themselves in very unfamiliar territory.

Hurricanes-Senators Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 16 Jan 2015 19:45:52 PST)
Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson has identified better home performances as a key to the Senators climbing into playoff contention. After an impressive win on home ice their last time out, another could be on the way with the last-place Carolina Hurricanes heading to Ottawa Saturday night to complete a back-to-back set. The Senators (18-17-8) haven't won back-to-back home games in over two months, going 5-5-2 since a 4-0-2 start at Canadian Tire Centre. For us, we've got to win some games and put some pressure on the teams in front of us." Thursday's 4-1 victory over Montreal fit that description with the Senators in tune offensively.

Defunct Izod Center; dysfunctional Sharks; Trotz's charitable imprint in Nashville (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Fri, 16 Jan 2015 11:16:48 PST)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

Curse of the All-Star Goalie (Rotoworld)
(Fri, 16 Jan 2015 09:41:00 PST)
The Sabres do not play this week and there seems to be a curse with goalies picked to the All-Star game. Read more in The Week Ahead.

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