Kukla's Korner

The Gonchar Turnaround

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

Nonetheless, Gonchar's bosses are to be forgiven if they are particularly cautious about how he's handled over the next few days. After all, he has been looking like a pretty precious commodity lately. Perhaps even worthy of the five-year, $25 million contract the Penguins gave him in the summer of 2005. He has four goals (three on the power play) and two assists in two exhibition games, has made intelligent plays all over the ice and has provided a steadying influence on the Penguins' blue line. That he is rookie center Evgeni Malkin's primary link to his teammates and coaches only enhances his value.... "I want to do better this year," he said. "It was a very disappointing year, for all of us. We didn't have a good start. We went in with a lot of expectations, and didn't start well. "It was very hard for all of us, especially for me, after signing a big contract. Hopefully, that's not going to be the case this year. I'm going to try to do everything to avoid it."
more

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Lewis Putting Fun Back Into The Game

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Boston Herald,

The Bruins’ short-term memory is certainly pleasant right now after four consecutive, strong preseason wins. There is no guarantee the good times will keep rolling, but that clearly is Lewis’ aim. “We’re trying to have an atmosphere where conditioning is important, hard work is important, structure is important, individual creativity is important, but yet enjoy what you do because not many people in the world are lucky enough to get the opportunity to play professional sports,” Lewis said. “There’s enough pressure as it is, each player putting internal pressure on himself, external pressure from the coaches, media, fans, that you have to have a release. If you’re comfortable you always play better. If you’re relaxed you play better. We’re always trying to loosen them up. “We’re just getting to know the team as coaches. It’s a fairly quiet team, we’re getting to find. I think there are a couple of characters. The blossom hasn’t fully opened yet, but I think we’re getting there. We’re trying to break the ice. (Associate coach) Marc (Habscheid) is good at that. (Assistant) Doug (Houda) has had some funny presentations before games. (Center) Marc Savard has really helped in that area.”
read on

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The Change Is Official

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

Well the name changed, but the website hasn't. I would have thought Versus would have done an overhall on the site too. image
added 7:48am, from the LA Times,

"Versus captures the essence of our brand," Harvey said. "We felt it was a slam dunk, and sports fans we talked to all agreed." The network is also suggesting that people can simply call it by the letters VS. Harvey, a UCLA business school graduate who became network president in 2004, said creative director Michael Magnotta came up with the name last October. Focus groups were conducted and Versus was approved in April. None of this might have happened if not for the NHL. When OLN got the deal last August, it was viewed as a watershed for the network because it gained a league it could hang its hat on. "For us, it was a game changer," Harvey said. "It put us on the map. It is the engine that drives us. We think the NHL has tremendous growth potential, and we want to grow this thing together."
more (reg. req.)

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Questions For Edmonton

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Robin Brownlee of the Edmonton Sun,

First, is Petr Sykora, who went 3-8 in the face-off circles in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Calgary and is 7-15 on the dot overall in his two games, best used at centre? Second, will MacTavish employ five forwards on his first power play, as he has at times during pre-season, or will that leave the back end vulnerable when facing real NHL rosters? Third, where does right winger Joffrey Lupul fit, and with whom, in a group of offensive-minded forwards who are almost interchangeable in the one through nine spots? From where I sit, the answers, in order, are: yes, probably and on the first line with Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff. All, of course, are subject to the right of review and second thought ... Coach?
more

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The Other Lundqvist

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Star-Telegram,

Rookie center Joel Lundqvist should find his way onto the Stars' roster at some point. But whether Lundqvist is able to win a job in training camp or during the season, he'd love to do it by Dec. 14. That's the date when Dallas hosts the New York Rangers and goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Joel's twin brother. Henrik, a phenomenal rookie last season, also led Sweden to the Olympic gold medal this year and became a media sensation in New York. By contrast, Joel is relatively unknown outside of his native country, where he spent the past six seasons with Frölunda of the Swedish Elite League. Henrik is among People magazine's "100 Most Beautiful People." Joel, his identical twin, is nowhere to be found in the issue.
continued

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Building On The Momentum

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Scott Burnside at ESPN,

A year later, the anticipation returns, but with a little more angst. What does the league do for an encore? How does it maintain the unexpected traction of last season and move forward in a year that might be more important than last? The buzzword for the coming season is upkeep. It comes from executives and players, coaches and GMs. "You don't get in shape and just stop working out," explained New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur, a member of the NHL's competition committee. "You have to keep at it." Players have to keep learning what is permissible, coaches have to impose schemes that allow their teams to be successful within the new economic and on-ice parameters and referees have to keep the game clean.
read on

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Lamoriello’s Cap Plea Serves As Litmus Test

Blog: KK Hockey By George Malik

from the New York Post,

Nothing else quite matters in Devils camp until Lou Lamoriello gets his cap sorted out. If he doesn't win an unlikely victory, allowing him to cross off the $7.1 million Alexander Mogilny-Vladimir Malakhov cap liability crippling him, he'll have to gut his team. Soon. Already, there is spontaneous consideration in Jersey's "limited-trade contract" contingent of which destinations would be acceptable if Lamoriello loses his case. "If the league does it for one team, it will have to do if for everybody," Flyer GM Bobby Clarke said of the expected Devils request to be forgiven $3.5 million in cap liability because of Mogilny's chronic hip ailment.
read on (reg. req.)

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Is He Back

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

I normally do not post game recaps of individual games, but at times I do reference something that happened in the game... from the AP via TSN,

Bill Guerin scored his first four goals of the pre-season and added an assist to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-3 on Sunday night. "Just one of those nights when things went in,'' Guerin said. ''If you watch the game I don't do much of the puck-handling, I just try to get open and go to the net."
If Guerin can recapture his scoring touch, what a huge lift that would be for the Blues.

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Fantasy- Hidden Gems

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Scott Cullen at TSN,

While the early round picks are the glamourous names, often the difference-makers in your draft will come from the players that have breakout seasons. Not only that, but being ahead of the curve on these players makes it all the more rewarding when they turn into major components of your team. There are three separate categories we'll cover as we look for candidates to break on through to the other side.
continued

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Top 50 Prospects

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

Evgeni Malkin tops Hockey’s Future’s Fall 2006 Top 50 prospects list: 8. Alexander Semin, LW – Washington Capitals Due to a playing dispute resulting from military obligations to his home country and the NHL lockout, Alexander Semin spent the last two seasons playing in the Russian Super League after an impressive rookie season with the Washington Capitals in 2003-04. His pure offensive talents from the left wing position make him an extremely valuable commodity to any NHL organization. With Ovechkin already holding down the left side on the first line, the presence of Semin on the second line provides immediate scoring depth for the organization. Returning to North America from Russia may require a slight adjustment from Semin, but it is only a matter of time before he, Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Fehr anchor the offense for a new and young Capitals team.
more

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