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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Finding the next Brodeur (NHL)
(Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:00:00 PST)
Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top-30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.

Yahoo Fantasy Hockey: Why Johnny Gaudreau is a stud, Alex Edler a dud (Puck Daddy)
(Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:08:23 PST)
Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website DobberHockey back in 2005 and has been Puck Daddy's resident fantasy hockey 'expert' since 2009. It's at this point in the season where, if you're competing for first, you should start scouring the waiver-wire for underperforming players who are on expiring contracts. Fantasy owners aren't exactly known for their patience, and they often drop players in December or January who could turn out to be hidden gems - if they're on a different team. Last season in late January, someone in one of my leagues dropped Ales Hemsky. Yes, Hemsky was doing terrible in Edmonton. But it was no secret that he was being shopped and would almost certainly be traded. I picked him up and he sat on my bench for three weeks. Then he was dealt to Ottawa. I could afford to keep such a player on my bench for a couple of weeks and it paid huge dividends because, as you know, he was very productive playing with Jason Spezza down the stretch. We'll end Hemsky's story there, rather than drag it into the Dallas era… Some things to look for: • Contract is expiring. And he'll become an unrestricted free agent, rather than restricted. • Playing on a weak or bubble team • He's struggling or just doesn't fit • He has shown enough upside to be of interest to contending teams in need of a complimentary player. That is to say - when he goes to a new team he stands a good chance of getting a long look on a line with their star. Some suggestions : Tomas Fleischmann (Florida); Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford (Buffalo); Justin Williams (Los Angeles - not currently in the playoffs); Cody Franson (Toronto); Michael Ryder (New Jersey); Jiri Tlusty (Carolina); Andrej Sekera (Carolina). Studs... These fellas are wielding a hot stick. Take that into consideration when you go after them in trade talks... Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (13-8-5-13, plus-6, 0 PIM, 36 SOG, 2 PPPts)  - Right now Johnny Hockey has nine power-play points. That's for the entire season. He's getting all his points at even strength and when the PPPts start to come, watch out. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins (6-1-10-11, plus-1, 2 PIM, 11 SOG, 5 PPPts) - Letang's five-assist game on Tuesday was enough to shift the outlook of the standings of many a fantasy league. If Letang can stay healthy, which is a pretty tall order for him, he has a very strong chance of winning the defensemen scoring title. Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks (4-0-0, 1.22 GAA, 0.953) - Along with Jaroslav Halak, I consider Andersen one of the two more valuable goaltenders in fantasy hockey. Halak doesn't have a John Gibson nipping at his heels in the system, though. But Andersen will continue to hang onto the top job the old fashioned way. With numbers that kick ass. Duds... Somebody wake these guys up – their fantasy owners are counting on them... Alex Edler, Vancouver Canucks (9-1-1-2, plus-2, 8 PIM, 17 SOG, 0 PPPts)  - With 58 points in his last 154 games, it's hard not to write Edler off as a 30-point player. And that's exactly what you should do. Seven full seasons in the NHL and he's only managed to top 38 points twice.  Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers (9-0-1-1, minus-1, 6 PIM, 15 SOG, 0 PPPts) - McDonagh is still a great shutdown defenseman and up until several weeks ago he was still getting pretty good PP time. But lately Dan Boyle has been the sole PP blue-liner as the Rangers go with four forwards. So the prospects of McDonagh suddenly heating up aren't very good. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars (2-3-2, 0 SO, 3.79 GAA, 0.897 SV%) - Dallas has a 28.6% win percentage when they're outshooting the opposition. Only Edmonton and New Jersey are lower. This is because the shots that do get through to Lehtonen go in far too often.  The Wire... Mostly short-term grabs here, but as always some potential steals... Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings (9-2-7-9, plus-2, 23 Hits, 14 SOG, 5 PPPts) - The 27-year-old has a great shot at 50 points, 150 shots and 175 hits. While each of those would be a career high, it's the offense that has taken a big step forward. Lately he's been lining up with Gustav Nyquist and Henrik Zetterberg. Benoit Pouliot, Edmonton Oilers (7-6-1-7, plus-3, 6 PIM, 17 SOG, 2 PPPts) - Pouliot is seeing time on the top line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as the bump in power-play time that goes with that. He's making big bucks in Edmonton, so they're not going to bury him on a checking line. He had a slow start, followed by an injury, so he's definitely under the radar right now. Joe Colborne, Calgary Flames (5-3-2-5, plus-4, 4 PIM, 7 SOG, 1 PPPts) - The former Leaf had eight points in nine games before missing time on injured reserve. He struggled when he returned, but is slowly coming back around. The only concern is that he's been stuck playing with Mason Raymond and Josh Jooris.  Adam Lowry, Winnipeg Jets (7-1-5-6, plus-4, 17 Hits, 7 SOG, 1 PPPts) - The 21-year-old freshman is just starting to really get comfortable playing at this level and his emergence has given the Jets an effective third scoring line thanks to his chemistry with Evander Kane. Mikhail Grabovski, New York Islanders (1-0-1-1, plus-1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG ) - He's only been back for one game since he missed five games with a lower-body injury, but that game was on the John Tavares line. Given that Kyle Okposo is out until late March, look for Grabovski to see extended time in this spot.  Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks (6-3-4-7, plus-3, 0 PIM, 12 SOG, 3 PPPts) - Just a shade above 0% owned in Yahoo leagues, Rakell is a rookie with two-way talent and he's primarily been used on a checking line. After his recent four-point game, he has seen a small bump in ice time and PP time. Since Rakell stopped having to share game time with William Karlsson and is no longer getting scratched, he has 12 points (21 games).  Seth Jones, Nashville Predators (5-1-4-5, plus-2, 0 PIM, 11 SOG, 3 PPPts) - Jones has gone seven consecutive games with at least 20 minutes of ice time. Before that - just once in 39 games did he see that kind of action. Coincidentally, Ryan Ellis sustained a lower-body injury seven games ago and has been out ever since. Jones is 23% owned. Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators (6-3-3-6, plus-3, 9 PIM, 11 SOG, 3 PPPts) - Michalek has fallen hard since his 60-point season from 2011-12. This just may be the first six-game run of this sort that he's enjoyed since then. He's seeing time on the power play with Bobby Ryan and Mika Zibanejad. For more fantasy hockey tips, take a gander at DobberHockey . And while you’re at it, follow Dobber’s fantasy hockey musings on Twitter . 

Rogers' questions about accuracy of NHL ratings 'nonsense,' says competition (Eh Game)
(Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:08:27 PST)
Rogers isn't getting any support in its claims that Canada's TV ratings system may be shortchanging sports broadcasters and under-reporting NHL viewers. In fact, the head of its chief rival calls those concerns "nonsense." "Are we to believe that there's an inherent bias exclusively for NHL viewers?" asked Phil King, president of CTV sports and entertainment, and the man responsible for all things sweaty on the main network and on TSN. "It doesn't seem to affect baseball or football, but NHL hockey. That's just silly. It appears there's only one company in Canada that believes this." King was commenting after Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL, responded to huge drops in ratings for the NHL all-star weekend by raising concerns that the ratings system was not counting all sports fans. Moore said Rogers had raised these issues with Numeris, which gathers ratings in Canada, months ago. He said it was something the entire TV business should be concerned about. But King says he's not aware of anyone else raising red flags. He cited ratings increases in many sports on his networks, including NFL, tennis and Toronto Raptors games. He also noted that Rogers has experienced ratings increases in several sports, most notably for the Toronto Blue Jays, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. "So if the ratings are wrong, how do you explain that some NHL numbers are up?" King said. "I think Rogers is worried that its NHL deal isn't producing the big numbers they expected and are looking for answers."  Regardless, it's not hard to see why Moore questioned the ratings for the NHL all-star weekend. Audiences for three days of programming were down from 27 to 61 per cent.  On the face of it, that seems inexplicable, but you never know. Maybe after a long absence, fans forgot what an all-star weekend was. But there's little doubt that the all-star game was a flashpoint for Rogers' disappointment in all NHL ratings this year. After spending a record $5.2 billion U.S. on the NHL package and promising advertisers ratings increases, Rogers has instead suffered audience decreases. Saturday night games are down and the much-touted Sunday game is underperforming badly. But unlike the all-star game, it's not hard to see why. Here are some of the reasons: Blame Toronto: The Toronto Maple Leafs tanked even earlier this season and have scared off a lot of viewers. Leafs regional ratings on TSN are averaging 630,000 viewers in Ontario this season -- a drop of 13 per cent from last year. On Sportsnet, Leafs games are averaging 569,000, down 22 per cent from 2013-14. That diminished interest translates into fewer viewers on the early Saturday night game, which then translates into fewer viewers sticking around for the  late game. The price of change: Sports fans don't like change -- remember how Don Cherry and Ron MacLean were received when they first arrived? -- and Rogers has made a lot of changes. They're not necessarily changes for the worse, but hockey fans will take their time adapting to all the new faces. While they're not likely unhappy enough to stop watching the games, they might not stick around at intermission or post-game, and that affects overall ratings. Not everything Rogers has done has worked -- Doug MacLean and Nick Kypreos make an annoying pair -- but viewers will accept it all in time. Rogers has had three months of a 12-year deal, so these are early days. Sunday, bloody Sunday: King was one of those who predicted that Sunday night hockey wouldn't work, and he wasn't alone. Training fans to tune in on a non-traditional night is hard enough, but getting them to look for hockey on a channel like City is even harder.  Is it all too much? It may look appealing on paper to have five games on simultaneously on a Saturday night, but Rogers may have overestimated the demand. It also may have underestimated the power of exclusivity. By having so many games available, fewer games have become must viewing. Miss a game and there'll be another along tomorrow night or two hours later. Promotion power shortage: One of Rogers' biggest challenges is telling viewers where to find all these games: Sportsnet, CBC, FX Canada, City. The problem is that it doesn't have the reach of a CTV or Global to promote its NHL offerings. City is its flagship conventional channel and it traditionally ranks well behind the others in reach and audience. It does have the power of Hockey Night In Canada to promote other games, but has that only one night a week.  This isn't to say that Rogers blew it by cornering the market on national hockey broadcasts. By next year, or in a few years, it may be making buckets of money off the NHL. But right now, it's facing an uphill battle. More Sports coverage on Yahoo Canada Sports:  

AHL calls news conference; West Coast relocation likely topic (Puck Daddy)
(Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:01:51 PST)
Several American Hockey League franchises have been rumored to be moving to the West Coast. The league is having a press conference Thursday at San Jose’s SAP Center with brass from the Sharks, the Flames, the Ducks, the Kings, the Oilers and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly present.  What could this possibly be about? Unless it's the latest Stonecutters inductions I’m sure we’ll know at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time. Relocation for next season. Duh...  Though we don’t know the exact locations of the new teams, this likely means the end of Calgary’s affiliation with Adirondack, San Jose’s with Worcester, Anaheim’s with Norfolk, Los Angeles’ with Manchester and Edmonton’s with Oklahoma City. Cities rumored as part of AHL relocation in the past included Stockton, San Jose, Bakersfield, Ontario, Long Beach and San Diego amongst others. All spots are in California.   While this stinks for the teams in the east that are losing affiliations, it simply makes sense for the more westerly squads. Just think, if a Ducks player gets hurt, a call-up must fly from Norfolk to Anaheim. According to Yahoo Maps, that’s 2,705.23 miles. And Norfolk doesn’t have a major international airport. Per Orbitz, if you needed a player to get from Norfolk to the Los Angeles/Anaheim area tomorrow, there are 0 direct flights. It’s a competitive disadvantage for those teams, and creates greater cost to fly players across the country. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in early December: It’s an advantage the Anaheim Ducks (Norfolk is their affiliate), Arizona Coyotes (Portland, Maine), Colorado Avalanche (Erie, Pa.), Los Angeles Kings (Manchester, N.H.), San Jose Sharks (Worcester, Mass.) and even the Calgary Flames (Glens Falls, NY), Edmonton Oilers (Oklahoma City) and Vancouver Canucks (Utica, N.Y.) don’t have. That’s why as early as next season, there could be a titanic transformation in the AHL. The NHL’s chief development league is well on its way toward several relocations of eastern markets to western markets that’ll include some and eventually maybe all of the above teams. That’s just the difficulties the western franchises face, rather than say the Buffalo Sabres, whose AHL affiliate is in nearby Rochester. Also, it shows hockey finally embracing California as a growing hotbed for the game. Good, because it is. And the weather is nice and … we could go on and on for more advantages by having teams out there. Thank you Wayne Gretzky!  - - - - - - - Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Can the Kings produce another royal second half? (Puck Daddy)
(Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:58:20 PST)
It’s late January and the Los Angeles Kings are outside the playoffs. But they’re still at 14-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup per vegasinsider.com – ahead of teams such as the Nashville Predators Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets who are ahead of the Kings in the standings. Should we at all be surprised? Los Angeles is on pace for 90 points as it enters its #rivalrynight game against Chicago. That likely won’t do it to make the postseason in the Western Conference. They’re three points out of the playoffs Wild Card, behind Calgary, which won again Tuesday night. But it just doesn’t seem real that the defending champs – who make an art of meh regular seasons and playoff success – are going to miss the NHL’s annual spring fling. Said Dustin Brown to NHL.com "If it doesn't [anger you] as a player, you shouldn't be playing at this level," Brown said. "But as individuals, as teams, as coaches, you pore over video and stats and this and that. We need to figure it out. Again, it's something we're going to have to figure out very quickly here because of the situation and how many road games we have. "But ... historically, our team, when our backs are against the wall, we dig down and find a way. It's one of those situations. It's going to be an important 30-or-so games left." Though Brown used one of the most used desperation clichés in the history of desperation clichés (backs against the wall … ugh) he does have a point. The Kings of Darryl Sutter lore seem to do their best when all hope is lost. They made the 2012 playoffs as an eighth seed and came back from a 3-0 deficit against San Jose to beat the Sharks in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Both years ended with Sutter's bizarro smile and a Stanley Cup win. From the same story: They finished the 2011-12 season with a 9-2-3 run to squeak in and went on to win their first Cup. Last season they went 15-6-2 after the Sochi Olympics en route to their second Cup . But could this finally be the year the Kings regular season rope-a-dope doesn’t work? There are arguments that say yes.  The Slava Voynov situation has sapped Los Angeles of its defensive depth, and also given the Kings a distraction . The waiving of Mike Richards again added an annoyance to the year at a critical time. This group has gone to the Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final three straight years. Is it just time for exhaustion to creep in? Los Angeles is just 5-9-6 on the road, in contrast to 23-14-4 away from Staples Center last season. In the playoffs a year ago only one team from the Western Conference made it with a losing road record.  Said Sutter to The Los Angeles Times: "They have to keep understanding and listening to what I'm telling them about how tough it is," he said. "The train has got to be a work train, not the Stanley Cup train. The Stanley Cup train was last year and some guys just have to get off that train." But The Times also points out in the story that the Kings’ aren't in an unfamilair position. In each season from 2005-06 through 2013-14 (excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season) at least one but no more than three teams made the playoffs after being outside a qualifying spot at the All-Star or Olympic break. The Kings did it in 2010-11, making the playoffs after being one point out at the All-Star break. It should be noted that the 2010 and 2014 Olympic breaks were about two weeks later — and nearly two weeks longer — than All-Star breaks during that span. Also, it’s likely that the Kings squad we’ve seen all year won’t be the same after the March 2 trade deadline. General Manager Dean Lombardi is known for making the right deal to get his team into playoff mode. Whether it was acquiring Jeff Carter in 2012 or making the move for Marian Gaborik in 2014. Both guys helped push the Kings into the postseason and were major factors in their playoff runs. Is it possible that this year could be different? Sure. Calgary has yet to fall off. Winnipeg seems stable. Vancouver is also in a playoff spot. All three teams weren’t expected to continue their early-season staying power. And they’ve given us every reason to believe they’re going to stay strong. Yay Canada! But the Kings are the Kings. They have the formula. That formula has worked. And until it doesn’t, expect them to make the tournament in April … even if they cause a few heart palpitations along the way.  - - - - - - - Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY  

Andersen earns 3rd career shutout, Ducks blank Canucks 4-0 (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 27 Jan 2015 23:42:24 PST)
As they dive into the second half of the season, Frederik Andersen and the Anaheim Ducks don't want to change a thing. Andersen had to make only 17 saves in his third career shutout as the Ducks defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 Tuesday night. Matt Beleskey, Kyle Palmieri, Rickard Rakell and Patrick Maroon scored for Anaheim (32-10-6), which sits atop the NHL's overall standings. The Ducks have won six straight and eight of nine.

NHL Three Stars: Letang feeds Penguins win; Halak stuffs Rangers again (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 27 Jan 2015 22:24:38 PST)
No. 1 Star: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins Notched five assists in his first game back after being slammed into the boards by Zac Rinaldo before the All-Star break in a 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Forward Patric Hornqvist also returned for the Pens in the victory after missing a month of action. No. 2 Star: Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders Halak has turned into Rangers kryptonite, stopping 40 of 41 shots on goal in a 4-1 victory over the Islanders’ rival. This comes on the heels of a shutout over the Rangers before the All-Star break. Overall on the season, Halak is 3-0-0 against the Rangers.  No. 3. Star: Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks The slick Danish netminder stopped 17 shots on goal in a 4-0 blanking over the Canucks. The victory for the NHL-leading Ducks was Anaheim’s sixth in a row and the shutout was Andersen’s third this season and second this month. Honorable Mention: Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle scored a goal in a win over Edmonton … Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 23 of 24 shots on goal … Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau scored two goals in a win over Buffalo. Teammate Jiri Hudler notched two assists … Nashville’s Craig Smith scored the game-winner over Colorado in overtime … Predators forward Mike Ribeiro picked up three assists in the victory … Detroit’s Stephen Weiss scored one goal and added two assists in a win over Florida … Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov scored a goal and added two assists … Luke Glendening scored two goals for Detroit and was a plus-4 … Montreal goaltender Carey Price stopped 40 of 42 Dallas shots on goal in a win over the Stars … Brendan Gallagher scored the game-winner for the Habs … Fresh off an All-Star appearance, Carolina’s Justin Faulk scored a goal and added an assist in a win over Tampa … The Staal brothers combined for four points in the victory … Columbus forward Nick Foligno notched two assists and was a plus-3 in a win over Washington. Teammate Cam Atkinson scored a goal and added an assist … Penguins forward David Perron scored a goal and added an assist … Jets forward Evander Kane notched three assists … Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds scored a goal in a victory over Arizona … Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk notched two assists in a win over the Rangers. Teammate John Tavares scored a goal. Did You Know?: With an overtime win over Colorado, the Nashville Predators matched a franchise record with eight straight home wins, set from Jan. 6 through Feb. 8, 2007. Dishonorable Mention: Colorado’s Brad Stuart was a minus-3, as the Avalanche allowed 39 shots on goal to the Predators … Florida’s Sean Bergenheim was a minus-3. Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo was yanked after allowing five goals on 17 shots on goal … Washington’s Braden Holtby allowed four scores on 30 shots on goal … Arizona’s Mike Smith actually played OK, saving 39 of 42 Flyers shots on goal but still lost … Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals to the Islanders … Rangers forward Tanner Glass picked up 14 penalty minutes … Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis was a minus-3. MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Mike Richards and the downward spiral (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 27 Jan 2015 15:24:27 PST)
Remember Mike Richards? Not the fourth-liner that cleared waivers for the Los Angeles Kings and was demoted to AHL Manchester on Tuesday. That’s not the guy we’re talking about here. The Mike Richards we remember was a Selke-worthy defensive center with offensive upside, a player that could be mentioned in the same breath as Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron for that duality and not have many scoff at it. A player who drove possession for his teams, even when pressed into situations that weren’t exactly corsi-friendly as a defensive forward. A player with an edge to his game that allowed him to piss off players like Sidney Crosby as he was shuttering them offensively. We miss that guy. Figuring out where he went … well, novels could be written. Justin Bourne has a nice take on it last year, a year that earned Richards his second Stanley Cup ring: He’s moved out of his scoring prime, which for offensive players is roughly the 22-27 range, and he’s played a ton of hockey compared to most 29-year-olds. He’s laced up the skates for 758 NHL games including 101 brutally physical post-season battles (over only eight NHL seasons), most of which have come towards the latter half of his career. And, that style he’s played isn’t exactly one that’s allowed him to float around and get through many games without contact. He’s never been the most fleet-of-foot guy in the league, so losing a half-step is bound to affect his game more than most. And that’s the thing: For whatever reason, at a certain age and mileage, guys lose something off their game. We look at Richards’ age (30 on Feb. 11) and his games played (just 704) and wonder why there’s been this downgrade in his career. We see him hit the waiver wire as a capable center – ideally a No. 2 for a good team – and wonder why no one will take him at $5.75 million through 2020; or through a trade with the Kings in which they’d pick up some of the salary. We can’t believe that his game has fallen off that steeply. Neither can the people employing him. A talent evaluator like Kings GM Dean Lombardi puts it this way: “The way I look at this, Mike’s, in his career, he’s shown he can be a .330 hitter and get you 80 RBIs as an All-Star player. So, maybe at this stage, maybe it’s not there. But I still assume he’s capable of being a .280 hitter and doing a lot of those things for you that only he can do. Let’s face it – right now he’s batting .200, but I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back to that. He’s got to do what he’s got to do. “ And then Lombardi really makes you think when he says: “The only analogy too, you can come up [with] – there’s a lot things that I saw that reminded of where Teemu Selanne was at this stage. I remember when he had fallen off the map, it looked like, in Colorado. It looked like he was done, and then he started changing some things and then went on to two great 10 years, for crying out loud. It’s up to Mike. There’s no [doubt] in my mind, I believe that if he wants to, that he can get back to that. But it’s going to be up to him.” Will we have a Mike Richards lovefest in 10 years like we did with Teemu? Eh, probably not. But the idea that a veteran player can suffer a dip around this time in his career and then morph into something else? That’s intriguing. But Lombardi has to say this because, essentially, he blew it. He had a chance to buy out Richards last summer without any cap repercussions, and opted for loyalty and the hope that he’d put in the work to elevate himself about the fourth line and healthy scratch-dom. And Richards couldn’t get it together, and now he’s being Wade Redden’d to the AHL at a time when the Kings need a kick in the rear. Let’s be honest: That’s a huge facet of this. “It’s just not very often that you see a player of Rick’s stature go on waivers,” said captain Dustin Brown, and that’s an understatement. The Kings are in a muddle for the last wild card with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, trailing the Vancouver Canucks by three points for third in the Pacific. They entered the All-Star Break limping with a 2-3-5 record in their last 10. They get back to work and BOOM, Lombardi lowers the hammer on Richards. He would have traded him if there was a taker. In any case, he's gone from King to Monarch.  It’s frustrating for all involved because, again, there’s been this inexplicable decline in Richards’ game. Was it one concussion too many?  The concussion he suffered in June 2013 is looking more and more like a career-altering event. Simply a matter of being in statistic decline at his age? Losing a step, getting down about it, and not giving the effort in and out of the season to make up for it? That other Mike Richards was a special player. The kind you’d expect to have two Stanley Cup rings by 30. But not the kind you’d expect to see demoted to the AHL, unclaimed on waivers and with an uncertain future in the NHL. Which is where this Mike Richards resides. MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY :

What We Learned: Our 30-team second half preview; who wins the East? (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:45:57 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.) As we begin the second half (and really it's more like the second two-fifths, but don't worry about it), there are a lot of questions facing a lot of teams in the league. The biggest one is, “What does the future hold?” Most teams in the league have about 35 games or so remaining on their schedules and some serious decisions to make as the trade deadline approaches over the next six weeks, we're almost certainly going to learn a lot about the quality of various teams around the league. The weird thing is both the East and West are kind of boring already; a lot of what we're going to see in the season's remaining games is a lot of jockeying for position. There aren't too many teams that are really going to be able to pry a playoff spot out of anyone's hands at this point, because already 13 of the league's playoff spots are all but assured (that is, that many teams have at least a 92 percent chance of making it according to Sports Club Stats and its invaluable projections). But even after that, there are really only teams in the West that have a lot to figure out, as Boston has a 70.8 percent chance of making it in the East, and the next-closest team is Ottawa with 16.7 percent. The jockeying out West is mainly between Calgary, San Jose and Los Angeles, three teams fighting for two spots, and while LA's the underdog in that race (46.8 percent) you still have to believe a lot more in their chances to pull things together than Calgary's, especially because the reigning champions trail the possession-deficient challengers by a single point in the standings (due entirely to their having gone 1-7 in shootouts this year). So neither of the races at the bottom are all that interesting, and it sure looks like Anaheim's going to run away with the top spot in the West as Nashville goes through its perhaps inevitable Rinne-less stretch. In the East, though, it's an entirely different story. Here we have three teams within a point of each other for the top spot, and two more within four. Five teams separated by a mere four points, and with the caveat that the leader has at least one game in hand on everyone behind it. Tampa's 64 points from 48 games is the third-best total in the league, but in terms of points taken per game, but it's seventh in the league . No one is saying the Lightning aren't a very good team, because they are. They're the second-best possession team in the league ( 54.8 percent fenwick for , even after adjusting for score effects) and they're dramatically outscoring their opponents at evens despite the fact that Ben Bishop hasn't really been that good this year. The effect of the team's shooting percentage — a second-in-the-league 9.3 percent — helps a lot. Mediocre special teams have been a problem, too, but not so much of one that it really matters all that much. They're the best team in the East. For now. Right behind them are the Islanders and Red Wings, and these are teams that also seem poised to overtake them. This is for two reasons. First, the Islanders and Red Wings have generally had more success in the games they've played, and have a better foundation for it than do the Bolts. Both are right around where they should be in terms of PDO (100.1 for the Wings, 99.5 for the Isles), as opposed to Tampa having been a little lucky. And likewise both are elite possession teams in the league (a No. 1 score-adjusted 55.3 percent for the Isles, and a No. 5 53.5 percent for the Wings). They're not simply getting the bounces, as Tampa kinda-sorta has, and they have the puck far more often than their opponents, which tells you a lot about how sustainable their success is. The other teams that are theoretically in the hunt for the East are, of course, Montreal and Pittsburgh, but I kind of reject the idea that they could make a push out of hand. While Pittsburgh has the possession numbers (ninth-ranked in score-adjusted fenwick), Montreal certainly doesn't (they're No. 21 in the NHL right now). That doesn't do a lot to guarantee the Habs' ongoing success, even in a relatively soft conference. And while Montreal at least gets by with the sustainably excellent goaltending of Carey Price, a proven elite netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury has kind of spent the last month regressing to what we know he is: a little better than average in the regular season. The Penguins have built their case of being one of the better teams in their conference mostly on the basis of Fleury being a .928 goalie for the first three months of the season, a full 17 points above his .911 over the first 514 games of his career. That he's gone .891 in the month of January, a tough stretch we can probably expect to continue as he regresses to his career average, should come as no surprise. With him go the Penguins' chances of realistically seizing the East by the scruff of its neck. (It should also be noted here that the Rangers are charging hard of late, and certainly putting in a credible performance, but their deficit is probably a little too big to overcome; six points is actually a lot, unless they keep up this recent run for another two months.) So the question here is whether it's the Wings or Islanders who sit in the catbird seat to overtake the Lightning and win the East. I think the answer is obvious. Even aside from Jimmy Howard's injury potentially putting a damper on the Wings' chances — which it unquestionably does — Detroit's underlying numbers haven't been good lately. In fact, like Tampa's, they've dropped of considerably while the Islanders remain more or less where they've been all year.

Lightning-Hurricanes Preview (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 27 Jan 2015 07:24:03 PST)
The Tampa Bay Lightning rode a perfect homestand into the All-Star Break and enter the second half of the season with the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Following the midseason layoff, the Lightning will hit the road Tuesday night looking for a 10th win in their last 11 meetings with the Carolina Hurricanes. Tampa Bay (30-14-4) strung together three wins prior to the break, topping Edmonton, Colorado and, most recently, Vancouver 4-1 last Tuesday. Ben Bishop stopped 27 shots as the Lightning boosted their league-leading goals per game average to 3.21.

Red Wings-Panthers Preview (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:24:40 PST)
Jimmy Howard's groin injury has done nothing to deter the Detroit Red Wings, who come out of the All-Star break riding a season-best five-game winning streak. Petr Mrazek is likely to be in net again as Detroit looks to beat Florida for the first time in three tries while dealing the host Panthers a fifth consecutive defeat Tuesday night. The Red Wings (27-11-9) haven't lost since with Mrazek starting each contest during the streak, though he hasn't been at his best in the past two games. Mrazek made 34 saves and two more in the shootout of a 5-4 win over Minnesota last Tuesday, though offense has keyed the last three victories in Detroit's run, with the Red Wings recording 16 goals in those games.

Ducks-Canucks Preview (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 26 Jan 2015 10:33:21 PST)
The Anaheim Ducks visit the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night looking to extend their overall winning streak to six and make it 10 straight games at Rogers Arena without a regulation loss. The Ducks (31-10-6) have won five straight in Vancouver and haven't lost there in regulation since March 24, 2010 - a 7-0-2 stretch with an average of 4.11 goals per game. They're 2-0-1 in the season series to extend their overall dominance against the Canucks (26-16-3) to an 8-0-1 run with just 1.33 goals per game allowed. Corey Perry has only appeared in one of the meetings this season, though he has 11 points on a six-game streak against Vancouver - all Anaheim wins.

Thomas Vanek on the PP! (Rotoworld)
(Mon, 26 Jan 2015 07:10:00 PST)
The Flyers and Red Wings are dominating the power play in the last month but Thomas Vanek has a surprising eight points since Christmas on the pp.

30 Picks in the Second Half (Rotoworld)
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 13:22:00 PST)
Michael Finewax looks at a fantasy pick a team the rest of the way in The Week Ahead.

Pressure from within driving Roberto Luongo to succeed (Puck Daddy)
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 07:24:36 PST)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Roberto Luongo is surrounded by some of the biggest names in the NHL during All-Star weekend. Stanley Cup champions. Scoring leaders. Players currently on the top teams in the league at the moment. Whenever he's bumped into one of them, the friendly greeting is followed by compliments. The kind words vary from opponents impressed with the Florida Panthers’ success this season to noting just how tough it is to play against the Cats. The last four games, however, have put the Panthers in a hole. They sit seven points behind the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins for a wild card spot. But the fact that they’re even in a position to chase a playoff berth is a testament to the team built by general manager Dale Tallon and coaching job by Gerard Gallant. But it also wouldn’t be possible without Luongo’s presence in goal.  “We still have a long ways to go,” Luongo said during NHL All-Star Media Day on Friday. “We know we want to get to the playoffs and we have the toughest part of our season coming up for us.” The Panthers sunk their way to the the draft lottery with Tim Thomas, Scott Clemmensen, Jacob Markstrom and Dan Ellis in goal for most of last season. Luongo arrived in March after the long-anticipated trade was consummated with the Vancouver Canucks. He was back in South Florida, away from the circus. He was in his happy place. So has that happiness been the driving force behind Luongo’s All-Star calibre play? “I don’t know. It’s tough to say,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of it that plays into it. Maybe that’s a little bit of it. Nothing wrong with Vancouver, I had gone to the point with all that had happened.  “Like I said many times, I needed a fresh start. Just start with a blank page and not have to worry about anything else. I think it has a little bit to do with it. There’s more than that. There’s a lot of factors that factor into that.” The contract (The one that "sucks," remember?). The emergence of Cory Schneider. The inevitability that he would be traded. But Luongo found that while he was hoping for a resolution, what was going on around him didn't serve as a distraction on the ice.  “The toughest times is where I found I had the easiest time dealing with it for some reason,” he said. “It just took me a while to know how to handle that kind of stuff and unfortunately maybe it was a little bit too late when I did realize how to do it. You know, it’s life, and things happen for a reason. You just try to just learn from your experience.” Now in Florida, Luongo’s happy, away from a situation where the pressure to win loomed large. Had the Canucks won the Stanley Cup in 2011, who knows how this story would have played out. After he didn't start the 2014 Heritage Classic, that chapter of his hockey career swiftly came to an end and he was dealt to the Panthers three days later. But to Luongo, the pressure to win is the same in Florida as it was in Vancouver, only because it’s internal, not external. “The pressure doesn’t come from outside, it comes from within,” he said. “We’ve just lost four in a row and I’m as mad as I would be if I would be anywhere else.  “To me, winning is where the pressure comes from. It doesn’t matter what market you’re in.” - - - - - - - Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY :

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.

Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen dangles 2 defenders for spectacular goal (VIDEO) (Buzzing The Net)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:18:40 PST)


The 10 NHL stars you assumed were All-Stars but never actually were (Puck Daddy)
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 08:01:39 PST)
The NHL All-Star Game is this weekend in Columbus, and thanks to changing dynamics in the League and some significant injuries, there are a number of players who are making their first appearances in the midseason classic.  They should embrace it. They should cherish it. Because not every big name player gets their shot to be an NHL All-Star. Here are 10 players that you might assume had been NHL All-Stars but, alas, never were during their storied NHL careers. Please keep in mind we went with retired players or players that are near the end of their run; while there are some current players that have been snubbed mightily, they also still have a chance to make the cut. These guys never did ... Bob Essensa, G NHL Games Played: 446 A good goalie on some bad Winnipeg Jets teams, Essensa didn’t get the same all-star chance that his fellow second-tier NHL netminders in that era (Darren Puppa, Arturs Irbe) received. Not even a pity pick. Sigh.  Kelly Hrudey, G NHL Games Played: 677 How many standout players who spend over a decade playing in New York and Los Angeles fail to make the all-star cut at least once? Better yet: How can a player make the cut for Team Canada in the 1987 Canada Cup but fail to be an NHL All-Star? Nutty. Chris Drury, F NHL Games Played: 892 A consistent goal scorer, including two great years for the Buffalo Sabres from 2005-07. But he was overshadowed by bigger stars with the Colorado Avalanche, was screwed over by there not being an all-star game right after the 2005 lockout and, in 2007, the NHL picked his teammate Daniel Briere instead. Well, at least he got paid. A lot. Brenden Morrow, F NHL Games Played: 921, through Jan. 22 Look, Morrow is a spare part player at this point, so we’re comfortable in saying he’ll not have an all-star season in him. Which means he’ll retire having never been one despite some strong seasons with the Dallas Stars. His best one, 2007-08, saw his teammate Mike Ribeiro get the nod instead. Morrow did appear in the All-Star Young Stars Game in his rookie season, but never in the Big Game.  Petr Nedved, F NHL Games Played: 982 This one was a surprise. One figured Nedved was the type of player the NHL craves for its spotlight on skill, but despite a 38-goal season in 1992-93, a 45-goal season in 1995-96 and some other strong campaigns, he never made it. His best season came in a year when Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux all made the all-star team. So that’s understandable. Ed Olczyk, F NHL Games Played: 1,031 The NBC announcer broke 30 goals three times and 40 goals in 1987-88 for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wales Conference all-star forwards that season? Well, check the list and you’ll see why he missed the cut. Geoff Courtnall, F NHL Games Played: 1,049 He had a few seasons of genuine offensive stardom, including 42- and 35-goal campaigns for the Washington Capitals in the late 1980s, as well as 31-goals seasons for the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues. But never got his All-Star Game invite. Insult to injury: His brother, Russ, was a 1994 All-Star for the Western Conference while with the Dallas Stars. Mike Ricci, F NHL Games Played: 1,099 Perhaps best known as a one of the preeminent pests in hockey history, Ricci was also a pretty dependable offensive player, scoring over 20 goals in his first four seasons and then doing it twice more with the San Jose Sharks. But his best offensive season (78 points) happened on a team with some dudes named Sundin and Sakic. Claude Lemieux, F NHL Games Played: 1,215 Granted, most of Lemieux’s best exploits were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he hit 30 goals four times and netted 41 in 1991-92 for the New Jersey Devils. But Scott Stevens was enough for the NHL from the Devils, and Claude missed the cut. Four Stanley Cups, no all-star games … maybe they were just worried about locker room chemistry. Guy Carbonneau, C NHL Games Played: 1,318 Look, incredible defensive players aren’t exactly known for making the NHL All-Star Game, which is why we didn’t blink when we saw guys like Adam Foote having never made it. But he was one of the most popular players in Montreal Canadiens history, and a legit star in his day. So while we understand the dynamic – 3-time Selke winner, never an all-star – it was still a little surprising.  

Miss Canada's outrageous hockey tribute; Rinaldo's hearing set; Bieksa out indefinitely (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 10:13:41 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 30 goalies: Hutchinson evolves into gem (NHL)
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:25:00 PST)
Every Thursday during the season, NHL.com's Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top 30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.

Canucks D Bieksa out indefinitely with broken hand (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 17:42:26 PST)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out of lineup indefinitely because of a broken hand that will require surgery to repair.

Dose: Pennsylvania rivalry (Rotoworld)
(Wed, 21 Jan 2015 04:09:00 PST)
The Penguins just seem to bring out the best (and a little bit of the worst) of the Flyers. That and more in Wednesday's Hockey Dose.

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.                                                                                                                                                   

Killorn has 2 goals, Lightning beat Canucks 4-1, move to 1st (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 20 Jan 2015 20:41:00 PST)
The Tampa Bay Lightning entered the All-Star break on a positive note. Alex Killorn had two goals, Valtteri Filppula added a goal and an assist, and the Lightning took over the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night. ''They've done everything we've asked,'' said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. Brian Boyle also scored for the Lightning, who lead the idle New York Islanders by one point in the East.

Canucks-Lightning Preview (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 20 Jan 2015 07:08:13 PST)
The high-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of matching the longest home win streak in club history. The Vancouver Canucks are tied for the NHL lead in road victories. The Lightning can make it eight straight at home Tuesday night when they welcome a Canucks team that has won three straight behind goaltender Ryan Miller as well as strong penalty killing. Tampa Bay (29-14-4) can match its longest run at home from March 17-April 8, 2006.

NHL Three Stars: Kulemin leads first place Isles; Staal fights, scores vs. Maple Leafs (Puck Daddy)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 22:33:28 PST)
No. 1 Star: Nikolay Kulemin, New York Islanders In a high-scoring matinee, Kulemin netted a pair and assisted on another as the Islanders took down the Philadelphia Flyers 7-4. Johnny Boychuk, Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Michael Grabner and Nick Leddy each recorded two points. The win moves New York into the top spot in the Eastern Conference. No. 2 Star: Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes The Hurricanes captain had a very eventful night during their 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. He scored twice and spent the third period in a personal battle with Dion Phaneuf. After the Leafs captain laid a clean hit on Jordan Staal, brother Eric came over and dropped the gloves with Phaneuf: It didn’t end there. Staal’s second of the night came via an empty net, and was slapped in past Phaneuf, who was playing goaltender: No. 3 Star: James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets The Wiz scored the go-ahead power play goal early in the third period, set up Columbus’ other two goals and even played a little net in the waning moments as the Blue Jackets upended the Minnesota Wild 3-1. Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 stops.  Honorable Mention : Radim Vrbata and Bo Horvat scored 4:38 apart in the first period to help the Vancouver Canucks to a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Ryan Miller made 23 saves as the Canucks won their third in a row … Five different New Jersey Devils scored and Cory Schneider made 34 saves en route to a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Adam Henrique, Scott Gomez and Jacob Josefson each recorded two points … Dennis Wideman's goal with 52.1 seconds left in overtime stood after a review and gave the Calgary Flames a 2-1 win over the LA Kings. Joni Ortio made 33 saves for his fourth straight win. Jaden Schwartz had a goal and an assist and Brian Elliott needed only 17 saves as the St. Louis Blues downed the Colorado Avalanche 3-1. Alex Steen recorded a pair of assists to extend his points streak to 10 games. He has 18 points over that stretch. Did You Know? “Ken Hitchcock won his 153rd game with St. Louis, tied with Brian Sutter for second on the franchise list.” (AP) Dishonorable Mention : Flyers goalie Rob Zepp was pulled after allowing four goals on 20 shots … Philadelphia has lost seven of eight on the road … Florida has dropped four in a row, their longest losing streak of the season. MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY :

Vrbata, Horvat lift Canucks to 2-1 win over Panthers (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 19 Jan 2015 20:52:45 PST)
His shutout streak over, Ryan Miller is happy to keep winning. Radim Vrbata and Bo Horvat scored, Miller stopped 23 shots and the Vancouver Canucks beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Monday night. Brandon Pirri spoiled Miller's bid for a third straight shutout with 2:32 remaining, ending the goalie's career-best scoreless streak at 200:45. Miller, who had blanked Philadelphia and Carolina in his last two starts, topped his previous best scoreless streak of 161:35, set in 2010 with Buffalo.

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

Canucks-Panthers Preview (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 18 Jan 2015 12:25:39 PST)
While Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo was terrific against his former team earlier this month, he hasn't been very sharp since. Nothing has gotten past Ryan Miller in the Vancouver Canucks' last two games. Luongo and the Panthers try to avoid a season-worst fourth consecutive loss when they host the Canucks on Monday night. If in goal, this will mark Luongo's third matchup against Vancouver since he was sent to Florida in a four-player last March.

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