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Florida Pantheres struggling despite Vanek acquisition

From the Miami Herald's George Richards:

The Florida Panthers made a nice deal at the trade deadline to help with their run to the playoffs.

Although that postseason push has stalled, don’t blame Thomas Vanek for it.

Florida goes into Friday’s game against the Minnesota Wild with losses in six of its past seven games including all three since acquiring Vanek from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a third round draft pick and depth defenseman Dylan McIlrath.

Vanek, who spent the past two seasons with the Wild before having the final year (this one) of his contract bought out, scored his first goal with the Panthers in Florida’s eventual 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday.

“He’s a really good player and we knew what we were getting when we traded for him,” interim head coach Tom Rowe said Friday morning. “He has obviously brought the offense and has a real confidence about himself in the locker room, really calm on the bench. That rubs off on everyone.”


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  Tags: detroit+red+wings, florida+panthers, thomas+vanek, tom+rowe

On the decline of fighting in the NHL

TSN's Darren Dreger issued a report on the decline of fighting in the NHL, and Hockey Webcast on YouTube kindly posted the video for non-Canadian viewers:

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Jakub Voracek peeved about NHL’s Olympic stance

From TSN and CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio:

Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek pulled no punches when it came to the increasing likelihood that National League Hockey players won't be taking part in next year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"Absolutely ridiculous," Voracek told CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio on Thursday of the situation.

As it stands, the NHL won't be releasing its players for the Games that get underway on February 9. During this past week's general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, league commissioner Gary Bettman indicated that there was no appetite from the teams to participate, despite interest from the players.

"Unless something changes we're not going," deputy commissioner Bill Daly added to the Canadian Press.  "We've said that consistently for three months so there's nothing new about that."

Voracek, who has represented his native Czech Republic nine times internationally including at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, found that tack to be unaccpetable.

"We have it once every four years," Voracek said. "I read something that Bill Daly said we're not going. Nobody wants you to go. The players want to go. Why you're saying you're not going? You're not part of the players association. ... Nobody wants you there. They want the players."

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  Tags: bill+daly, gary+bettman, jakub+voracek, olympics, philadelphia+flyers

Goaltending remains a big problem for the Winnipeg Jets

From Sportsnet's Kristina Rutherford:

Connor Hellebuyck was hours away from giving up five goals on 15 shots when Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice considered the position his young goaltender was in as his team fights for its playoff life.

“You’re in a Canadian market and you’re playing goal,” Maurice said ahead of a 7-4 drubbing at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday. “Your options are stellar or in trouble.”

Well, Hellebuyck has been a bit of both.

The 23-year-old from Michigan has started 12 straight games for the Jets, and in the month of March alone, we’ve seen the guy they call “Helly” post a shutout, come seconds away from another, and, most recently, get the hook.

As Maurice put it, “he’s had his ups and downs.”

Such has been the case in the Jets’ crease for much of this season. Hellebuyck has shown himself to be the best option available, with 22 wins in 48 starts, a 2.83 GAA, and four shutouts. He’s also failed to finish seven games he’s started.

Backup Michael Hutchinson is 4-11 with a 3.24 GAA, and veteran Ondrej Pavelec, who’s likely done for the season following recent knee surgery, was only called up in January after Hellebuyck had a couple nightmarish starts. Pavelec’s 4-4 record with a 3.55 GAA and .888 save percentage didn’t exactly win him the starting role back, anyway.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if the offensively gifted Jets are going to have even a shot at making the playoffs—a possibility that keeps slipping further out of grasp—they need either Hellebuyck or Hutchinson to catch fire.


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  Tags: paul+maurice, winnipeg+jets

Get your Hawks tix

From the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus:

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  Tags: chicago+blackhawks

Iginla scores his first pair of goals as a King

Jarome Iginla scored his first two goals as a Los Angeles King last night, including the OT game winner:


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  Tags: jarome+iginla, los+angeles+kings, nashville+predators

Prospect roundtable

Sports Illustrated's Peter Roumeliotis engaged in a Q and A with several prospects, including Red Wings defenseman Vili Saarijarvi, discussing a wide variety of topics in an intriguing roundtable discussion:

Sports Illustrated: What went through your head when you got drafted?

Julien Gauthier (pick No. 21, 2016 draft): It was the best feeling of my life. Everything you've done since you're a kid comes in mind at that moment. I would relive it every day and thank everyone who has helped me in my young career.

Vitaly Abramov (No. 65, 2016): I was really happy, proud and honored that I've been drafted in the league and that I became a part of the Blue Jackets organization.

Olli Juolevi (No. 5, 2016): It was a great day and when you finally got to know which team is going to draft you. It's exciting and a really happy day.

Continue Reading »

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Fixing the playoffs

ESPN's NHL crew debates ways to improve the Stanley Cup playoffs this morning:

Scott Burnside: There is only one way to align the playoffs to reward the league's best teams. And after all, isn't that the whole point of a playoff, to have a system that ultimately allows for the best teams to face each other at the end? I'm not advocating a 1-16 format, given the travel issues and overall weirdness we saw with that. But the simple and only right answer is to go with a 1-8, 2-7, etc., matchup in each conference. That way a team like the Montreal Canadiens, which would be fifth today in the Eastern Conference, doesn't get home-ice advantage in the first two rounds, which would be the case under the current setup (unless they get dumped in the first round by the New York Rangers, who will finish with more points but who will be relegated to a wild-card role and have to cross over, thanks to the misguided system now in place). The Capitals should be rewarded for their superlative play by facing the worst team in the playoffs and then the next worst team in the second round, and so on. Why should they have to play the Pittsburgh Penguins or Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round? It's ridiculous. The fans think so and, trust me, the players -- at least players on good teams -- hate the current format too.


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Werenski and Jones rocking the Blue Jackets

From the Columbus Dispatch's Michael Arace:

The Blue Jackets are vastly improved for many reasons, first and foremost this one: the burgeoning awesomeness of Seth Jones and the ethereal quality of Zach Werenski. They were not expected to put themselves among the league's elite, not this year.

Jones and Werenski are ranked among the top 15 scorers among defensemen — which cannot be said for any other pair on any other team. Don't tell me you saw this coming. Their combined age (41) is two years older than Zdeno Chara and four years younger than Jaromir Jagr. At this time last year, Jones looked like a solid No. 3 and Werenski was preparing for midterms.

They have been at the forefront of the startling transformation of what was, for years and years and years, and years and years, the most nondescript team in the NHL — and, arguably, in all of American professional sports. A healthy Sergei Bobrovsky and an emergent Alexander Wennberg have contributed mightily to the Jackets' suddenly terrific assemblage, but the two defensemen are the poured-cement foundation.


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  Tags: columbus+blue+jackets, seth+jones, zach+werenski

Crosby vs. McDavid tonight

NHL.com's Tim Campbell reports that tonight's marquee match-up involves Sidney Crosby battling Connor McDavid:

The NHL scoring race will be a certain headline when two of the League's marquee centers, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, play against each other at Rogers Place on Friday (9 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SNW, ROOT, NHL.TV).

McDavid leads the NHL with 74 points (22 goals, 52 assists). Crosby is tied for second with 70 points (League-leading 34 goals, 36 assists).

The game also creates a focus on what's to come.

Crosby, 29, is looking to add to an impressive resume that includes 137 points in 124 Stanley Cup Playoff games and two Cup wins. The defending champion Penguins are tied for second with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division with 90 points.

The Oilers have 78 points, two behind the Anaheim Ducks for second in the Pacific Division, and are on course to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.


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  Tags: connor+mcdavid, edmonton+oilers, sidney+crosby, winnipeg+jets

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com


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